British citizen Michael Woodford was a superstar executive for Japanese manufacturer Olympus, as he achieved tremendous success heading up the company’s European division. He then became one of the very few Western executives to become a CEO of a Japanese corporation when he was named CEO of Olympus. But his tenure as CEO was to be very brief in one of the most extreme cases of culture class ever seen in recent corporate history. Woodford survived only six months as CEO after being embroiled in an ethics dispute with the chair of the Olympus corporate board.
Before starting this case, carefully review the background materials and pay close attention to cultural differences in leadership across cultures, including the differences between Eastern and Western cultures and the concepts of power distance and individualism/collectivism. Also, review some of the concepts from previous modules such as sources of power and power tactics. Then do some research on Michael Woodford and his stint at Olympus. Here are some articles to get you started:
Rowley, A. (2012, Jan 10). Olympus saga: Lessons in corporate reform. The Business Times [Proquest]
Tabuchi, H. (2011, Oct 15). In a culture clash, Olympus ousts its British chief. New York Times [Proquest]
Interview: Michael Woodford describes his fall from Olympus. (2011). Asiamoney [Proquest]
When you are finished with your research, write a 4- to 5-page paper addressing the following questions:
- As a British CEO of a Japanese company, how much power do you think he actually had? What were his sources of power? Refer to concepts from Module 1 regarding power sources as part of your answer in addition to concepts from Module 4.
- What role do you think differences in British and Japanese cultural values had in Woodford’s difficulties at Olympus? Refer to specific cultural dimensions such as power distance and individualism/collectivism and make sure to cite at least two of the readings from the background materials page for your answer.
- Given the cultural differences, what negotiation tactics and leadership practices should Woodford have taken in order to avoid the conflicts that he faced? Make sure to cite concepts from the background materials in your answer including Sadri (2013) and Chapter 11 from Comfort and Franklin (2014).