The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

On July 3, the Kansai chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) was privileged to host Patrik Jönsson, then-president of Eli Lilly Japan and governor of ACCJ-Kansai, who gave a presentation on the subject of Level 5 Leadership to a full house at Eli Lilly Japan’s beautiful new headquarters in Kobe.

Using the paradigm and levels of leadership established by Jim Collins in Good to Great, his classic book on business success, Jönsson focused on the qualities that separate good leaders and companies from extraordinary ones. He also added his own ideas and analysis regarding the qualities of outstanding leaders, based upon his many years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and work as head of Eli Lilly’s operations in Sweden, Italy, and Japan.

The event was highly interactive and participants had nume­rous opportunities for discussion and self-analysis in addition to hearing from Jönsson about his extremely interesting life, career, and thoughts on leadership. Specifically, attendees were asked to consider the elements of great leadership, think about their own leadership attributes, and consider how they can work to achieve the ultimate goal of Level 5 Leadership.

In another very interesting and useful exercise, attendees were asked to rate the specific attributes of great leaders for whom they had worked and then rate themselves based on those same attributes. This led to a deep and enlightening discussion between Jönsson and the audience, as well as among the participants themselves.

Of all of the attributes of a successful leader—including vision, ambition, intelligence, empathy, and hard work—Jönsson emphasized the existence of humility as the greatest differ­entiator between good and great leaders. This, he said, is also the defining factor of Level 5 Leadership.

In an insightful and entertaining manner, Jönsson described his own efforts to become a better leader, including not only his successes but also his setbacks and how he learned from them. Based on his insights, as well as the discussion and analysis, the participants took away concrete advice and ideas for improving their own leadership skills.

After the presentation, there was a very lively and interesting question-and-answer session in which participants from various countries, industries, and levels of leadership shared their experiences and thoughts.

To end the evening, Eli Lilly Japan generously hosted a reception at which participants were able to network and speak directly with Jönsson.

The ACCJ-Kansai is extremely grateful to Jönsson for his fantastic presentation, to Eli Lilly Japan for hosting this great opportunity to hear him speak, and also to the ACCJ-Kansai Business Programs Committee for organizing yet another excellent event.

Level 5 Leadership also served as a final chance for participants to learn from Jönsson in such a setting. On September 1, he stepped down as president of Eli Lilly Japan to take on the roles of senior vice president of Eli Lilly and Company and president of Lilly Bio-Medicines. He passed the baton to Simone Thomsen, who became president the same day. You can hear more from her about the industry and her vision for Eli Lilly Japan in the interview starting on page 20. 

Jönsson emphasized the existence of humility as the greatest differentiator between good and great leaders.