There is no doubt that leadership holds the key to an organization’s success and failure. Researchers have identified that the ultimate source of an organization’s success lies solely on the effectiveness of its leaders. Thus, it seems imperative to examine legendary business leader Akio Morita, internationally recognized as one of the world’s most successful corporate leaders, the man credited for turning Sony Corporation from a tiny radio repair shop to what it is today, a global electronics and entertainment giant.
This study concludes that Morita was truly a remarkable leader, worthy of emulating. MR. SONY Leadership is defined as the art and science of getting others to perform and to achieve a vision. To be an effective leader in today’s fast changing and complex business world, successful leaders and management experts contend that leaders must be more than just transactional leaders, they need to be transformational leaders. Transactional leaders are deemed to be budgeters, organizers and controllers whereas transformational leaders are charismatic, visionaries and change agents.
Akio Morita was chief executive officer and chairman of Sony Corporation, positions he held since January 1976. Despite being virtually synonymous with Sony, especially outside Japan, Morita did not actually become the company’s president until 1971. Morita retired as chairman in November 1994, one year after suffering a stroke in November 1993. However, he stayed on as honorary chairman, until his death on October 3 1999 at age 78. On May 7, 1946, Morita founded Sony, originally known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, together with the late Masaru Ibuka, an electrical engineer, with an initial investment of US$500.
Morita met Ibuka in the Japanese Navy’s Wartime Research Committee in 1944, whilst serving as a Navy lieutenant. Morita was born on January 26, 1921, into a wealthy family of sake brewers in Nagoya, an industrial city in central Japan. As the eldest son, he was groomed from elementary school age to succeed his father as president of the sake brewery that had been in the family for nearly 400 years. As a student, Akio often sat in on company meetings with his father and he would help with the family business even on school holidays.
But in junior high school, Akio became fascinated by his family’s phonograph, an appliance rare in Japan at that time. He became an avid electronics hobbyist, building his own crude phonograph and radio receiver. He studied physics at Osaka Imperial University. Morita received numerous international awards and honors for his civic and business activities (See Appendix II). Time magazine picked him as one of 20 “most influential business geniuses” of the 20th century, the only non-American on the list.
Morita was the first Japanese to be awarded the Albert Medal from the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Arts in 1982. In 1984, he received the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest and most prestigious French Order. Akio Morita – The Leader Akio Morita displayed brilliantly certain characteristics, traits similar to which a truly world class business leader is deemed to possess and these include: Morita understood very well the meaning of the old saying, “nothing is constant except change”. Morita did not just embrace change, he identified himself as a change agent.
Morita’s most important legacy was that he helped change the world’s image of “Made in Japan” synonymous with shoddy imitations into high quality, high technology and high reliability products. When Sony Corporation of America was established in the United States in 1960, Morita actually changed his residence to New York City to learn American ways, then unheard-of for a Japanese business executive. However, Morita felt the move was necessary in order for him to understand Americans, their market, customs and regulations better, thereby increasing the chance of his company’s success.
Courageous Individual Morita has proven on several occasions by his daring decisions and actions that he was unafraid of entering uncharted waters. He had been groomed since the third grade to become the successor of a 14-generation family business: a prominent sake-brewing company in Nagoya. In true entrepreneurial spirit, however, Morita traded this life of comfort and privilege for the uncertainties of a start-up, originally known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, in the rubble of postwar Japan.
Morita’s introduction of new products that no other competitor has yet put to practical use or for which no market could yet exist, further illustrated his risk taking tendencies. Morita was a non-believer in market research and never did any. He trusted his own judgment, anticipating customers’ needs before they even realized what they wanted. “Our plan is to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want,” he declared in his autobiography, “Made in Japan,” written with the journalists Edwin M.
Reingold and Mitsuko Shimomura. In 1979, Morita adopted this business philosophy of his, most famously with the legendary Walkman. Because there were no precedent for the product and not much detailed market research analysis to justify its manufacture, the majority of Sony’s board members strongly opposed it. Morita adamantly launched the Walkman, which became immensely successful. As he explains, only the force of his personality enabled him to get the green light. Today, the board is presumably happy that Morita had won them over.