It Starts and Ends at the Top
Akira Tanaka was an unassuming man who quietly climbed the ladder of success at Premier Electric, a well-known Japanese auto supplier headquartered in Tokyo. With his last child's entrance to a prestigious Tokyo university, he could focus on climbing the final few rungs of the corporate ladder to become an officer and board member, a feat that eluded most of his comrades who started with him some 30 years ago. He was summoned by the human resources department one lazy afternoon in late March to be “unofficially” notified of his new assignment as the CEO of Premier's largest foreign subsidiary, located in Flint, Michigan. He accepted without any hesitation; Tanaka was the ultimate “company man.” Plus, during the past 30 years of Premier's operations, being named the CEO of the U.S. subsidiary virtually guaranteed future success at the company. Tanaka was an avid golfer on weekends and an accomplished singer on the Tokyo karaoke scene at night. Like many Japanese executives on the rise, Akira Tanaka was a chain smoker, a habit he picked up in college.
Akira Tanaka was an average-looking man with an infectious smile that made people comfortable and his engaging laughter put everyone he met at ease, a quality that he took advantage of everywhere he went. The day of his promotion was no different from any other day—after putting in a grueling 12 hours of work, he led his subordinates into the “night jungle” that was known as ...