Managing director is a team player
Having originally joined Sony in Japan 1979, Masahiko Kusakabe has since worked in various divisions including audio, marketing, electronic devices and business strategy electronics. As the present managing director for the 600-strong Sony Corporation of Hong Kong, he is responsible for overseeing four distinct business “domains” - consumer marketing, electronic devices, B2B operations and supply chain. Kusakabe has to travel frequently around the mainland to understand and support the needs of the fast growing China market. He talks to Jan Chan.
What practical steps can senior executives take to become better leaders?
To be a better leader, you must be able to identify people with the potential to succeed you. After doing that, you can start to delegate certain responsibilities and give them opportunities for further development and learning. You also need to present fresh challenges so they have a chance to handle difficulties and less straightforward situations. More specifically, I enjoy having lunch and casual talks with younger colleagues so I can understand them better and see their unique qualities. This is very important for identifying future leaders.
As a leader, what are the most valuable lessons you can pass on?
The most important thing I have learnt from my former bosses is that one person can’t do everything. Leaders usually have a huge number of responsibilities. But the key is to be able to motivate and empower others to handle their fair share of the work and the responsibilities. This is also the lesson that I want to pass on.
What are your main objectives in your current role?
We have three major missions for the company in Hong Kong. They are to implement the best marketing practices and offer the best service for customers; to enhance our uniqueness and corporate abilities; and to maintain our position as a highly regarded company that contributes to society and the local community. My personal objective is to work in line with these three objectives.
What specifically did you learn from your time in Europe?
Altogether, I worked in Europe for eight years and it was one of the best experiences of my career in terms of getting exposure to new ideas and alternative management practices. I learnt a lot from collaborating with people of different nationalities, educational background and viewpoints. Working together with them for an extended period helped me to understand and appreciate that there is always more than one way of looking at an issue or of solving a problem.
What is your guiding principle in management?
My number one principle is fairness. You need to be a fair leader if you want to build trust among colleagues. Also, when people have trust in you as an individual, it is easier to have frank discussions and, from there, you can build mutual respect. Basically, fairness is the core value; trust and respect are the result.
How do you unwind and deal with day-to-day pressures?
My work and other responsibilities certainly give me a fair amount of pressure. However, I understand that it’s best not to take everything on my own shoulders, but to share the load with members of my team. This is similar to the situation if you are playing a game like soccer. You don’t keep the ball yourself for too long. The best way to score a goal or “hit the target” is to pass to your team mates. That’s why my approach is to share any pressures with my colleagues, which has also become something of a motto.
With a busy schedule, do you still practise the cello?
I have played the cello ever since my university days. At that time, I was been hoping to join an orchestra and a friend of mine suggested learning the cello. You can say that I like music – especially classical - and art very much. For me, the beauty of music is that you can communicate without having to speak the same language as the people you are playing with. When I was in Germany, for instance, I was a member of a local orchestra there and enjoyed it very much, even though I wasn’t able to speak German. Besides that, I’ve found that an orchestra is similar to a corporation, since both require teamwork to achieve a sense of harmony and the best possible results.
- Kusakabe believes that the essential function of advanced technology devices is to meet customer needs
- Suggests that one prerequisite for all leaders is to have an open mind
- Is currently a member of the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra