The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Global leadership has been identified by many companies as the key to growth, and there is an urgent need to develop future leaders to represent Japan on the world stage. For member companies of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), global operations are a given, and it is critical to have the human resources in place to build a strong organi­zation in Japan and the region. The ACCJ–Kansai Leadership Series directly supports this need, offering promising individuals the opportunity to learn directly from the experiences of successful executives, as well as from each other.

The series of events, hosted by the ACCJ–Kansai Women in Business Committee, was originally conceived around the goal of strengthening the Kansai economy by supporting a new generation of leaders who desire to step up and develop them­selves for a global role. During its first years, the program attracted participants from ACCJ–Kansai corporate sustaining member companies, reflecting the importance of these organizations to the business community.

The Leadership Series has expanded to include participants from 10 ACCJ member companies across Japan. It is more than simply a set of lectures by top management of prominent organi­zations. The program format provides participants—who commit to attending the four-part series—ample time to engage with the speakers and each other in breakout discussions on topics related to each presentation.

These opportunities to exchange ideas and create stronger networks across industries and functions are key to the program’s popularity. The series also highlights the importance of a diverse workforce, which is a key focus of the Women in Business Committee’s activities.
Now in its seventh year, the program has attracted more than 350 individuals—both Japanese and non-Japanese—and created a robust cohort of alumni contri­­buting to organizations in Kansai and beyond.

To encourage and support participants’ development, speakers give presentations on topics related to their leader­ship, touching on the challenges, transi­tions, and skills they found most useful as they progressed in their careers. They also openly share their failures and what they have learned from them.

Participant feedback shows very high appreciation of the “informative, practical, and inspiring presentations based on the speakers’ actual experiences.”

Themes from past discussions have included inspirational leadership, how to impact engagement and upward influence, following your passion, learning and problem solving by examining evidence, and exploring key skills for Japanese leaders working internationally.

On March 7, ACCJ–Kansai Governor and Eli Lilly Japan K.K. President Patrik Jonsson spoke about “Leadership and Impact on Engagement.” He shared his journey in creating a great place to work, bringing Eli Lilly to a position as one of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in Japan. He also shared insights on why Eli Lilly has been recognized in consecutive years as one of the best places to work. Through his presenta­tion and table discussions, participants learned first-hand about the importance of universal skills and how to connect with people by building trust and making others feel included by creating a culture of speaking up.

To date, speakers have included the presidents of ACCJ member companies such as AIG’s Bob Noddin and Bayer Yakuhin Ltd.’s Heike Prinz. As the number of graduates grows, we hope to support a strong base of up-and-coming leaders as they guide their organizations to success. We look forward to seeing how our alumni move forward, utilizing their peer networks and innovative leadership approaches to drive growth not just in Kansai, but throughout Japan.

Mie Kitano is co-chair of the ACCJ–Kansai Business Programs Committee and former co-chair of the ACCJ–Kansai Women in Business Committee.