What Leaders Can Learn From Japan’s Earthquake ?


The ancient  Bushido code or  ‘way of the warrior’, also named “The Seven Virtues of the Samurai” was established between the 9th and the 12th centuries but  is still very much anchored in ordinary Japanese people.

The seven main virtues/principles of Bushido are:

  1. Honor
  2. Loyalty
  3. Honesty
  4. Courage
  5. Respect
  6. Rectitude
  7. Benevolence.

After the Earthquake and the Tsunami that kill more than 10, 000 on March 11, 2011 and have left hundred thousands homeless people, you could not see real panic among Japanese people. Observers did not see a lot of  looting or thefts  but  just people waiting long queues for hours to get some food and water. Even under constant stress from after-shocks and a huge nuclear threat, most people did not even show their anxiety.

“In Japan people smile with their face and cry inside,” says Professor Jeff Kingston from Temple University in Tokyo. (BBC News Asia Pacific, March 20,2011

The “Fukushima Fifty” are workers who have risked their lives at the nuclear plant to save others,  not only Japanese, but other people around the world that could have suffered from severe radiation if a meltdown of the reactor had happened.

On the other hand, the top management at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima plant, poorly handle the crisis.  Crucial  information was retained and the reaction of the top executives were very slow. Tepco president Masataka Shimizu, “the missing man” was not seen for a week and did not show-up at the nuclear plant to  clearly explain the severity of the situation resulting in anger from many  Japanese people.  Several days later Mr Shimizu offered an apology that was rejected by the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato.

This crisis also revealed a  problem regarding accountability of the Japanese government relying too much on private companies like Tepco to get reliable information on time.

Listen more about the poor management of the nuclear crisis here : Company’s Handling Of Nuclear Crisis Sparks Anger

Many people asked if leaders are born or built  which in my opinion is not the question. I think that true leaders are revealed in time of crisis, emotional distress and chaos. A true leader is able to act quickly, make informed decisions and is not afraid to share the bad news, be prepared for the worst and not gambling with the lives of his employees. Like the captain of a sinking ship he should be the last one to leave the boat !

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One thought on “What Leaders Can Learn From Japan’s Earthquake ?

  1. Barbara OBrien March 24, 2011 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Well said Anne. Difficult to know how your leader, our leaders, will respond in a crisis. The deer-in-the-headlights look of George Bush comes to mind.

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