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

Last night, the GLOBIS Night ended after midnight, and I went to bed after 2am. I got up around 6am this morning and left the hotel for a meeting slated to begin at 7:30am. An early start to the day is typical for the WEF. It was still dark outside. The meeting was a board meeting of the Community of Global Growth Companies (GGC), which I serve as co-chair. I was determined to make the meeting successful and pumped myself up to do my best.

The board meeting ended. I think I was able to fulfill my role as co-chair successfully. It seems that I have become accustomed to the role. I then started communicating with Japan via e-mail and phone in the lounge of the venue. Prompt reply to e-mails is essential to maintain speedy company management. Maintaining close communication with Japan was even more important because the G1 Summit was going to be held soon. So I tried to reply to e-mails whenever I had a spare second. When I happened to look up, Christine Lagarde, the head of IMF, was walking just in front of me. 

It was very cold in Davos today. I was told that the temperature in the night was -25℃ and currently it is -13℃. I went to the venue of a luncheon session earlier than planned. The session was about financial affairs. Although it was not my area of expertise, I decided to join the panel when invited to do so. If I had declined, the number of Japanese panelists would have decreased, which, I feared, might weaken Japan’s presence in the session. (As I was told later, Dr. Heizo Takenaka was originally planned to join the panel. So the session was, as I suspected, a really high level.)

Most of the panelists were governors of central banks, Nobel Prize-winning economists, and financial ministers. Probably due to the small circle of these people, they all seemed to know one another well. The governor of the Bank of Korea was also in attendance. I felt totally isolated.

However, because their interest in Japan was high, I was able to contribute to the session simply by explaining 1) the economic slump in Japan, 2) the “three arrows” of the economic policy, and 3) Japanese people’s reaction to the policy, as well as by offering 4) a counterargument against criticism of the weakened yen. What is really important in this kind of meeting is not just the content of your argument but also the way you present it. I tried consciously to speak slowly and powerfully. I think I was able to do my best and speak sufficiently well.

I felt relieved after this challenging role, and left the hotel where the luncheon session was held to return to the main WEF venue. My main schedule in the afternoon was to attend several sessions. I was relaxed and talked with many people.

While I was talking with WEF participants, the topic shifted to Japan’s energy issue. When they pointed out the extremely high purchase price of solar energy in Japan, which is twice as expensive as in Europe, I couldn’t find an appropriate answer. I just answered that it is probably due to the immature government and strong lobbying activities of some companies. In the eyes of other countries, Japan’s nuclear-zero policy must look suicidal.

Back at the main venue, I listened to a speech by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan. His Majesty and I have had a fairly friendly association for more than 10 years. I was genuinely glad to see His Majesty’s energy and commitment again. He left the stage to the side, so I did not have a chance to speak to him this time around.

I talked with other participants in the lounge. Conversation in this kind of place often gives me a wealth of hints. It was also a good opportunity to request the participants to join the panel for the G1 GLOBAL Conference, which is scheduled to be held in September this year. I was also able to receive some feedback on my performance as a panelist. I was particularly glad that Nik Gowing from BBC praised my performance in the breakfast session organized by Edelman.

I took part in a session hosted by Joichi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab. I have been acquainted with Joi for more than 10 years, but it was the first time that I had listened to him speak in English. It was very inspiring. Nik Gowing, who was sitting next to me, said Joi was like “a man from another planet.” Joi was one of the centers of attention at this year’s WEF.

The front page of today’s Financial Times was carrying a photo of British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel taken at the WEF. The WEF is a place where the secretary-general of the United Nations, president of the World Bank, managing director of IMF, and many others who are influential in the world gather under one roof. The power of the WEF is tremendous. Those who have a say here become the most influential people in the world.

My schedule in the evening of Day 4 was to meet the director of International Relations of The Johns Hopkins University, visit Malaysia Night, and from 8pm host a reception of the Community of Global Growth Companies (GGC). I also planned to join a private dinner from 9:30 pm—quite a tight schedule!

Because I felt slightly feverish and had some signs of a cold, I decided to hire a car to take me to all the scheduled places. After finishing all the meetings, I returned to the hotel. It was a busy but satisfactory day. Tomorrow, the final day of the WEF, economy minister Akira Amari and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi are to arrive in Davos. I’m also going to participate in one session as a panelist. I need to recharge myself for tomorrow.

The temperature was nearly -20℃ this evening. Extremely cold. The temperature difference between the indoors and outdoors is so big that it is difficult to keep in good shape. I was also invited to evening meetings more often than in any previous year. While paying attention to my health, I want to embrace every opportunity to meet new people and develop a good network.

February 1, 2013
At home in Ichibancho, Tokyo
Yoshito Hori

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