The Five Practices: The Leadership Challenge Comes to Japan

The Leadership Challenge Comes to Japan

Craig Haptonstall

It's not often I am able to share the realization of a personal-best dream. But having recently returned from Japan, I am happy to say that at least two of my most passionate, long-time dreams have become reality.

For many years, I've yearned to bring the power of The Leadership Challenge to Japan and facilitate learning of The Five Practices model. And thanks to the generosity and The Personal Best Leadership Challenge of our colleague, Hiroshi Watanabe, I joined a team of leadership experts to participate in the first-ever The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and facilitation training events, held in Tokyo, February 3-4, 2011.

Watanabe San began championing this endeavor over 12 years ago and has worked diligently ever since to finally realize this goal. Reflecting on the extraordinary experience I personally had during my time in Japan, I also find myself reflecting on the exemplary leadership he demonstrated in making this event happen. As you might expect of any complete Personal Best leadership experience, his efforts over the years offer a wonderful example of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® in action.

Model the Way: Watanabe San has a burning passion for leadership development. He is fully committed to the value it can deliver and, more specifically, has literally digested each and every word of The Leadership Challenge. He labored countless hours over the years. His dedication is so strong. Even with the passing of his dear mother, and her services the day prior to the workshop, he continued to be there to fully support both me and the program—without hesitation.

Inspire a Shared Vision: While Watanabe San champions the vision of The Leadership Challenge across Japan, the interest in workshops and learning has begun to cross borders, languages, and cultures—with inquiries already coming from Korea, China and beyond! It is rare indeed for a single person, as a practitioner and advocate of The Leadership Challenge, to impact an entire nation—much less multiple nations. But Watanabe San's burning passion has sparked the passion for greatness in others and to the idea of The Leadership Challenge for all of Japan.

Challenge the Process: The initial workshop represented a fine example of a Leadership Journey! The first time we do anything it is a learning experience: there are experiments as well as mistakes to make, and small wins all along the way. Of course there was a certain amount of fear and anxiety prior to the first session. Would it be successful? How would it be received? As a first time facilitator in Japan, I certainly made some mistakes in my delivery on that first day. But thanks to the help and support I received from Watanabe San, Nakajima San, and Konda San, I was able to make day two and the facilitation training events kaizen.

Enable Others to Act: The workshop and facilitation training events were a complete team success! The Japanese Management Association (JMA) and Right Management teams, translators, and meeting hosts worked incredibly well together and created ideal models of teamwork for the program participants to view and follow. Specifically, within these stellar teams, there are some specific individuals that truly stood out for their outstanding leadership:

Konda San, JMA’s General Manager, worked tirelessly to make certain that every program detail was taken into account and all logistics came together smoothly. His efforts and long hours of dedicated focus resulted in the finest example of a TLC open enrollment program imaginable. Nakajima San is a Senior Expert with JMA and a noted expert in leadership behavior. On multiple occasions throughout the two-day events, he stepped forward and demonstrated acts of leadership that only come from a master. His ability to bravely model behavior outside the parameters of "The Japanese Way" provided hope and inspiration for the other, less-advanced program participants.

Members of the Right Management team also were consistent in modeling how a leader can and should openly question, in order to better understand. I am thankful they were in attendance.

Encourage the Heart: The workshop closing was perhaps the finest of all of the Encourage the Heart examples I experienced during my time in Japan. As a celebratory ending, imagine the 31 program participants—including the session translators and JMA support team members—all standing in a big circle, holding hands, and doing the WAVE! Fantastic, high energy, and cohesive, it was one of the most moving workshop celebrations I've experienced, and perhaps a bit surprising, it was created by one of the groups with all Japanese participants.

This unique event is not the end of the story but rather a major milestone along the way in Watanabe San's Vision. The journey will continue, and many more learnings are sure to be had along the way. I am honored to have been a part of this amazing experience that will remain an important part of the rest of my life.

Postscript: Now, more than ever, the citizens of Japan need The Leadership Challenge! While there is tremendous hardship and challenge, there is also great opportunity for a positive future. I am confident that Japan's leaders will be the ones to initiate this journey of potential and possibility, and I wish them courage and strength as they travel toward a realized recovery from their most recent disaster.

Craig Haptonstall is president and CEO of Leadership Mechanics LLC and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. An experienced and results—oriented speaker and coach whose corporate career has included positions with Southwest Airlines and The Tom Peters Company, he can be reached at




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