Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

On Day 2 of the World Economic Forum, I was on a panel in a private breakfast session starting from 7am. One great thing about the WEF is the private sessions, which are strictly by invitation. The chance to speak before such a select audience was a great honor. This session was organized by Edelman, the world’s largest PR company

Photo 1: Here is a scene from the breakfast session. I was seated at the same table as Kevin Rudd, former Australian prime minister; Rui Chenggang, a CCTV (China Central Television) anchorman, who has 10 million followers in China; and Richard W. Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. The person seated with her back toward the camera is Ruth Porat, CFO of Morgan Stanley. 

In the room I also saw Joseph Nye, the head of BCG, and Nik Gowing.

Photo 2: Here’s another scene from the session. The camera caught me with my eyes closed. The panel is composed of the CCTV anchorman, Ruth Porat, vice chairman of HP, me and the chairman of PwC. The moderator is a journalist from The Financial Times.

Serving on the panel of this private Edelman session was quite interesting. We compared “trust” within countries, professional sectors, emitters of information and so on. It was concluded that CEOs and politicians are not as trusted as corporate employees and ordinary citizens. This is shocking for me. I discussed why we had arrived at such a state, what leaders should be like, and what could be done to deal with the situation.

Photo 3: Just finished the breakfast session. I was able to speak four times, the largest number among the panelists. I see how important it is to get used to this kind of speaking opportunity. I still want to get more experience and improve so that I can communicate my ideas more accurately and effectively. I have now arrived at the Congress Center, the main WEF venue, on foot. It’s fine and clear in Davos today.

One of this year’s co-chairs is Atsutoshi Nishida, chairman of the board of Toshiba Corporation. This is the third consecutive year that the WEF has had a Japanese co-chair, after Yorihiko Kojima, chairman of the board of Mitsubishi Corporation, in 2011 and Yasuchika Hasegawa, president & CEO of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company in 2012. I feel proud that there are Japanese business leaders with such a global presence. Yet, there are not many Japanese speakers as a whole. I believe that we should do more about this.

I entered the Congress Center, the main venue of the WEF, for the first time this year. I first attended the session called “Idealab.” Presentations were delivered on four subjects, followed by discussions on: 1) genetic engineering, 2) Internet security, 3) recycling and the environment, and 4) fuel cells. The session helped me see more clearly the major issues that are of interest to the world.

In the lounge of the main venue, I exchanged views with George Yeo, the former foreign minister of Singapore, and his wife. At 11am, I held a preparatory meeting for the Community of Global Growth Companies (GGC) session, which I will co-chair. I wanted a meticulous briefing since I’m leading the board meeting scheduled for Friday morning.

I had my lunch at the main venue. Shortly after 1pm, I had a meeting with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group. At 2pm, I took part in brainstorming in preparation for the Global Agenda Council (GAC) on New Models of Leadership session.

I notice that discussions on leadership are particularly active at Davos this year. This is because leaders have not appropriately caught up with various changes in many quarters of society. Old-school leaders incapable of properly handling new environmental changes are causing a worldwide leadership crisis. We are searching for new models of leadership to better handle the changes.

Having participated in discussions on leadership for over 10 hours, I feel that my ideas on the subject have become quite clear and solid. Perhaps I should put them together in a book.

This year I’m focusing my energy more on meetings, networking and communicating my ideas rather than on attending sessions. At Davos, I have two major roles: as a member of the GAC on New Models of Leadership and a co-chair of the GGC Community. I’m currently focusing on these roles and my scheduled talks.

Since I worked at full throttle since early in the morning, I returned to the hotel for a short break, after which I should be able to have a full Davos evening: Harvard Night, Wine Forum, CCTV Night, Forbes Reception, and PwC Night if I still have time. Going from one to another and attending a total of five receptions in a row is my plan for this evening.

I’m particularly looking forward to the Wine Forum, enjoying free flows of first-class wine in the piano bar of a luxury hotel. The theme of this year’s Wine Forum is Italian wine. Barolo, Barbaresco and other superior Italian wines selected by some expert, presumably the president of an Italian wine association, will be served. So there should be no unpleasant surprises.

For GLOBIS Night, on the other hand, I’m planning to serve Urakasumi from Shiogama, which was affected by the March 11 tsunami. To rival the first-class Italian wines, I’m offering this first-class sake. Already more than 400 people have signed up for GLOBIS Night. In other words, over 10% of the WEF participants are coming to our event.

Evening functions at Davos offer ideal opportunities for networking. I exchanged greetings with Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Limited, and Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Co. Arriving at the reception hosted by Forbes, I was welcomed by a courteous Steve Forbes at the entrance. I passed James Dimon, chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, on my way back.

On the shuttle bus back to the hotel, I met a Chinese reporter from The Financial Times. He said that this year’s Davos was generally more interested in the relationship between China and Japan than China itself. It is true that these days China is more associated with the Senkaku Islands issue or the issue of censorship as exemplified by the Southern Weekly incident. Moreover, as China’s economy is slowing down and the new regime’s political orientation is not yet clear, it seems natural that China has not offered many optimistic topics.

Back in my hotel room, I’m having an early night again to conserve energy for tomorrow’s GLOBIS Night.

January 30, 2013
At home in Ichibancho, Tokyo
Yoshito Hori

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