Sir Richard Branson, Chairman and CEO of Virgin Atlantic, and Mr Haruka Nishimatsu are two contrasting leaders that have adopted leadership styles that suit the vastly different Japanese and British cultures.
Comparison of the Leadership styles of Haruka Nishimatsu, JAL CEO and Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic,. On a typical day, Haruka Nishimatsu wakes up, wears one of his discount suits, takes the city bus to work, walks down the aisles and corridors of JAL unnoticed, and sits at his desk in open space, with no office walls. During lunch, If he is not walking down the airport terminal, or helping prepare a plane, Nishimatsu can be found eating lunch with coworkers in the company cafeteria. For all of his hard work, Mr. Nishimatsu is paid a salary of slightly less $100K per year. Richard Branson’s salary is estimated at a whopping $6.5M per year, which barely makes a dent to the $4.2B fortune of the 4th richest man in the United Kingdom. Cultivating a brash, flamboyant personality, Branson is known as the king of the publicity stunt. Branson has attempted several Guinness Book of records adventures, embarked on many balloon and boat trips around the work, has bungee jumped in a tuxedo off the Las Vegas Palms hotel as well as starred in a Bollywood movie (Andaaz Apna Very Halke), co-staring Miss India.
We begin by examining the very different cultural contexts in which these two executives operate. Japan is one of the highest ranked countries along the Masculinity dimension, with a males mostly dominating the ranks of senior executives and making major decisions, with women taking a more modest and caring role. Japanese culture also ranks high on Uncertainty Avoidance, where despite not relying on the formal legislative system, the Japanese culture is a very structure culture that puts a high premium on order, process and certainty and process. The Japanese culture also shares with many oriental culture a focus on Long Term Orientation, prizing long term higher purpose over short term gains.
The Japanese culture ranks low on individualism, prioritizing the needs of the group over the individual, and relatively low on Power Distance. In examining Haruka Nishimatsu’s management style, we find an executive that has adapted well to the Japanese cultural context. Nishimatsu’s leadership by example, insistence on being in the trenches is reflective of Japan’s relatively low PDI. His sacrificing his salary, where he is paid lower than many of the pilots is congruent with Japan’s emphasis on collectivism (low IDV). His predictable routine, and hands-on management approach is reflective of Japan’s low Uncertainty Acceptance Index.
In Contrast the UK ranks among the lowest in Uncertainty avoidance reflecting a culture where individuals are happy dealing with uncertainty. It also ranks low in masculinity and power distance signaling equality across gender and rank, while ranking the highest in individualism. Richard Branson is an iconic CEO, with a carefully and deliberately cultivated flamboyant and charismatic image. This executive style is well suited to the United Kingdom high score in individualism.
Branson’s strong instincts, and his quick, reactive management style, is well suited to the UK’s high tolerance for uncertainty. His focus on using the media for PR stunts, his relentless drive for results are well accepted in the UK’s low LTO culture, where short term tangible success trumps other virtues. This exercise in contrasting the different executive styles, shows that these two executives who could not seem more different are similar in that they have adapted a style that fits their corresponding cultural contexts, and have eventually emerged as icons of their respective countries.