Like any catchy tune, the lyrics of the 1984 song “I need a hero” continue to play in my mind as I write this article. Bonnie Tyler’s haunting voice echoes the need for heroes and our willingness to wait for them until the end of the night. I believe that we need people who inspire us to be better in what we do and become inspirations to others too. In the midst of darkness, we need heroes who can show us the light.
Oxford Dictionary defines a hero as one who is “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievement or noble qualities.” For various reasons, some people name Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson as their present heroes in the business world. They cite their achievements and their being able to rise up from their failures. They use their successes to propel them to pursue more. Their insatiable desire to push the boundaries of possibilities and innovate to help address what society needs seem to distinguish them from the rest of mankind.
One of my own heroes in business is Konosuke Matsushita, who is the founder of Panasonic (formerly Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. Ltd.). In his biography, John Kotter (1998) writes about how Matsushita’s entrepreneurial strategies and practices have differentiated him from others early in his business. He promoted strong customer orientation, willingness to take risk, innovative marketing and faith in his employees, which helped his enterprise grow rapidly and profitably. In fact, more than half a century before the publication of In Search of Excellence (1982), Matsushita has been using many of the practices that Peters and Waterman would describe. Matsushita believes in treating people as part of the family that’s why serving customers better is the true purpose of enterprises.
When he pursued ambitious plans to go global after World War II, he inculcated the kind of continuous improvement (kaizen) that is driven by humble hearts and open minds to keep his companies and employees from being arrogant. This culture appears to be one antidote to How the Mighty Fall (2009), a book written by Jim Collins. In the said book, Collins warns successful businesses against hubris.
In the end, Matsushita’s success is directly related to his actively responding to habitual self-reflection, as well as thoughtful awareness of societal realities. He has shown that gut-feel or intuition has a key role to play in making ventures successful amid unpredictable circumstances. He embodied what the ancient Icelandic called innsaaei, a term for intuition that aptly means “to see within,” seeking to know one’s self better and learning from the world around. “To see from the inside out,” allows one to have a strong inner compass to navigate in this ever-changing world.
Throughout his life, Matsushita has shown that despite not being highly educated, rich, charismatic, nor well connected, one can succeed and even become a role model. He even claims that “You may be a well-educated, clever and virtuous person, but those qualities will not necessarily make you a successful businessman. You must give your best to each and every task you take on, and reflect on your performance with an honest and unprejudiced eye.”
With all his achievements, he has inspired a myriad of people from different walks of life to embrace his ideals and continue to be lifelong learners as they lead and grow in their respective fields of specialty. His philosophy compels us to consider that it is the job of business to serve society and that profit is just a reward for a job well done. This is why Matsushita believes that if business does not translate into profits, then it is “a sort of crime against society” since it is misusing the resources (i.e. capital, people, materials, etc.) made available to it. Such endowments could have been put to better use by other businesses or organizations.
His life has inspired the next generation of businessmen to consider how serving society and doing a good job will be in the best interest of everyone. His legacy of steering Panasonic through turbulent times after WW2 and building not only the company but also the nation is nothing short of legendary, a heroic act.
I wonder how many have tried to follow a similar path of heroism in our country similar to Matsushita. If you happen to know of a Filipino youth, 25-35 years old who has demonstrated exceptional leadership through initiatives in organizing and managing sustainable business or social enterprises or programs that make the lives of their community better, please nominate him or her for the Siklab Award―a national search for young Filipinos who have the potential to steer our nation forward. This initiative is spearheaded by the PHINMA Group in collaboration with the De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB) and JCI Manila. Simply visit this website tinyurl.com/siklabawardsnomination for details.
We need to recognize young heroes to inspire our youth to be themselves a living business hero. Our national hero, Jose Rizal, did remind us that the youth is the hope of our future.
Arnel Onesmo O. Uy is a full professor in the Accountancy Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business at De La Salle University, where he currently serves as the Vice Chancellor for Administration. For comments or reactions, he may be reached at [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.