Developing Cross-Cultural Leaders (Summary) – 2014 Annual Conference

The following is a summary of the breakout session “Developing Cross-Cultural Leaders” at the 2014 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on October 10, 2014.


  • Ms. Tracey Doi, Group Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. (moderator)
  • Ms. Atsuko Fish, Trustee, Fish Family Foundation
  • Mr. Todd Guild, Senior Director, McKinsey & Company, Inc.
  • Mr. Colbert M. Matsumoto, Chairman and CEO, Island Insurance Company, Ltd.
  • Mr. Phil Scanlan, Founder and Chairman, NEW YORK GLOBAL LEADERS DIALOGUE
  • Dr. Britt Yamamoto, Executive Director and Founder, iLEAP


The room was packed without a spare seat with an audience eager to share in a dialogue about “Developing Cross-Cultural Leaders,” a topic integral to the U.S.-Japan relationship now and for the future.

Discussants began by outlining their views on: what makes a cross-cultural leader? Mr. Todd Guild from McKinsey & Company outlined five key components, which he posited as a result of their pro-bono consulting engagement for the TOMODACHI Initiative, expanding on the personal, intercultural, academic, professional and leadership qualities that can be measured on the spectrum of development. Other discussants stressed the importance of intergenerational learning, service of others, mentorship, clarity of purpose and confidence.

Key elements of the discussion centered around women’s leadership in particular, and the important role of both women and men in helping pave the way for young women leaders, based on the concept of “sponsorship from the majority.” All discussants seemed to agree that embracing cultural differences was a key attribute of successful leaders. The qualities of compassion and empathy were also discussed, and it was stressed that true leaders seek to empower other leaders, and should try to add value to the rest of the world.

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking elements of the dialogue centered on the Japanese concept of hyakusho, which as Britt Yamamoto explained, is an old Japanese word meaning farmer. The translation also can be explained as someone who “lets 100 crops flourish.” He explained that this is a fundamentally Japanese concept, and that it exemplifies the importance of being an adaptive, flexible leader. Therefore, he explained, a young Japanese person does not necessarily have to adopt international or American leadership styles. There are many leadership sensibilities that are historic features of Japan, which can be explored and leveraged.

With a room full of cross-cultural leaders, self-identified as such or otherwise, these concepts spurred much discussion, and debate continued in small conversations long after the session ended.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Annual Conference.