Selfless. Beloved. Fun! All words that come to mind when you think of a CEO, right?
No? Why not?
Do you think those words apply to a strong leader?
Being a strong leader means you have the ability to motivate your employees (and by extension, your customers). Motivation is driven by leaders who create the environment for employees to have the three Rs: respect, relevance, and relationship.
Selfless, beloved, and fun are terms used to describe Satoru Iwata, the CEO of Nintendo who passed away in July 2015. Iwata both understood and leveraged the concept of motivating employees to forge his legacy worldwide.
Back in 2014, Nintendo’s flagship gaming console, the Wii U, significantly underperformed on the market. So, as the CEO, what did Iwata do? He cut his own pay by 50% to help lessen the burden on his company. He didn’t position himself as above anyone else in the company, rather he considered himself the same as one of his fellow employees or one of the gamers who enjoyed his work. Iwata felt a bond with his workforce and the consumers of his company’s products, stating, “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” And Iwata demonstrated this very personal relationship he valued by finding ways to remain open and communicative with everyone. He reached millions through his web series, “Iwata Asks,” where he interviewed other Nintendo employees to get a real sense of how development was coming along for upcoming games. The series—along with his penchant for personally appearing in comedic advertisements—kept Iwata relevant in the hearts and minds of his employees and people around the globe.
His passing came as a shock—his health was kept quiet and many people (including myself) were blindsided when the news broke. But the international reaction drove home the power of his leadership: employees and customers, many who had never met him before, were distressed at his death. Iwata’s focus on respecting the people who worked for him, ensuring employees understood the purpose and relevance of their work, and building good relationships with his people made him not just a CEO of a successful international company, but a colleague and friend who will be sorely missed.
What about Iwata’s leadership style can we use to become more effective leaders ourselves? Share your thoughts below!