I’m one of the lucky few to have worked for a wonderful manager. She was a business leader who worked tirelessly to fill the gender gap and to improve workplace diversity in Japan, but unfortunately, she passed away last year. As the first anniversary of her death was marked in June, I decided to write an article about her leadership style.
Always, be positive!
She was always positive, even when I had to tell her some bad news, or things didn’t go as expected. She always listened to me, she neither criticized me nor got disappointed with me, but instead she gently asked me a simple question, “Now. What do we do?”. Being positive is not necessarily about being too optimistic, but about thinking forward based on the given circumstance.
Don’t try to settle for average
She always committed to deliver the very best and she never let us compromise even a bit. Even some photos to be used in a presentation material, we spent time on contemplating ideas until we all were convinced. Also, she didn’t settle with easily achievable objectives. She always said “listen to your heart, and you’ll know what you really want to achieve is always way above your current goal”.
It’s always scary to start something new or different from what others do. “But when you feel scared, it’s the evidence that you’re moving forward, so be brave, take that step” she said. We witnessed that through her growth mindset when she took on the position of the Vice Chairperson in a male-dominant Japanese economic organization as the first female executive. And whenever I tried to start something new, either in work or private, she was always supportive. The point is that she immediately gave me the push I needed as soon as she heard my story. I think this is quite important. “You’re gonna be okay! Just do it.”
Respect cherishing people
She really cherished people. Even after I left the company to start a different career path, she often made time to see me even when she was extremely busy. At Christmas, she sent a greeting email to me and some of my ex-colleagues.
It’s simple, but it’s hard to do.
Have a good sense of humor
She had a very good understanding about her role in many situations. Despite jumping into a male dominated business organization, she dared to speak up when others would or could not, and she’d say “I know I’m different than the male executives and that is why I should be different”. By doing so, she always questioned and challenged the status quo. Her good sense of humor helped in lightening the mood. Although she jokingly told us that her comment often sucked the oxygen out of the room (but I bet that was just as she had planned!).
Finally, we must not stop the momentum of women’s social advancement, which she had been working on throughout her life. Oddly enough, we see a rapid expansion of telework mainly in large companies as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections. She strongly believed that technology helps women’s participation in the workplace and society. Now that technology has begun to be used at an unprecedented level, I believe we must focus on creating a society in which people of diverse lives can play active roles.
Special Thanks to: Amber Sprague