I have been keen to post on the life of Konosuke Matsushita ever since hearing Prof. John Kotter’s presentation on him at the Leaders in London conference. I purchased Kotter’s biography of Matsushita, ‘Matsushita Leadership’, back then, but only just this summer have gotten to reading it. As Kotter’s presentation, it is a truly delightful illustration of the rises and falls of an executive exemplifying both Leadership and Management excellence in equal, balanced, harmonious measures.
“Early success, instead of satisfying Matsushita and reducing his ambition, seems to have only increased his desires. The wins were viewed as evidence that he was on the right track. The losses were seen as inevitable burdens that one must suffer in life.”
Matsushita’s leadership of upside opportunity was one of the most ambitious of the twentieth century. He sought after not just building (and rebuilding…and rebuilding again) a giant of company, but also sought to change the world’s economic condition.
“As early as the mid 1930s, Matsushita saw that one of the greatest dangers for a successful enterprise was its own arrogance. More importantly, he found a possible solution to the problem – a very far reaching and humanitarian goal. When your mission is to alleviate poverty on earth, it is difficult to look at your actual achievements and become arrogant.”
Beyond his lofty ambitions, Matsushita remained a consummately grounded and humble manager who was able to steward one of the largest corporations of his time. He pioneered management innovations years before gurus like Chandler, Drucker and Bennis popularised them around the world.
“In some ways, all four men – Ibuka (Sony), Morita (Sony), Matsushita, Iue (MEI) – were alike. They were restless, ambitious, and much more willing than average to challenge conventions. Like most Japanese, they had known hardship. They were visionary, with big ideas and goals. They all developed many new skills during their adult years. But of the four, Matsushita was the extreme case. The other three suffered, but not as much as KM. The others talked of big goals and aspirations, but not on the same scale as Matsushita.”
Konosuke Matsushita is one of the most compelling historical role models of an executive demonstrating leadership and management prowess together.