When I was appointed president, somebody told me, “It’s no big deal for a company to change its president. But the caliber of the president determines the caliber of that company”.
Those words made me feel incredibly uneasy and insignificant. Already past fifty, I wondered how I could possibly expand my ability.
I came to the conclusion that I was feeling pressure because I was too conscious of being president.
Since becoming president, there has not been a single year of peace and quiet. Every year without fail, something comes up.
In the first year, I took over when the company had fallen into a deficit, and soon found myself called before a public hearing in the U.S. (over the recall issue). What became clear to me then was that, even more than being president, I was the person responsible for this company. I felt that it was my role to make decisions even when there were no clear answers.
When people hear the word ‘president’ they envision ‘someone important’, but I have never thought of myself as important. Upon becoming president, the words that came out of my mouth were, "I want to be as close to genba (the front lines of the workplace) as possible”.
Just as people talk of ‘someone important’, they think of the president as a person with power. However, (the important thing is) how you exercise that power.
There are people in the world whose hard work goes unrewarded. I think my title is good only in the sense that it allows me to use my influence to ensure that hard-working people are rewarded.
The result is that, for the eleven years of my presidency, I have spent each day thinking, ‘Perhaps today is the day I step down...’
(In that way), these eleven years have been made up of ensuring that, in any given moment, I say and do the right thing as the person in charge. So it has been far from peaceful.