Leadership, 日本人 and Indonesian

This one word was a hot topic in a team discussion I join at work. As a new comer in HRD division I was assigned to join a small team which will design central education’s outline and contents in our company, Mandom Corporation. The team consists of 2 men, 2 women with different working years. I am the less one although the second top actually born in the same year with me, so we are in the same age. I am the only foreigner because the other three are japaneses.

One of the content of program we are working on is leadership, and because we have to decide what kind of education content we will offer to employees, at first we discuss about the leadership itself.

All the three participants insist that leadership is about to be a leader, standing in front of the mass, carrying the flag and lead the people. It is not wrong to describe the leadership as simple as that, but I also add that it is not only that. For my understanding, leadership is not just being a leader, I write it down in the paper with clear english, leadership is about TO LEAD AND TO BE LEAD.

I can see weird smirk in one of the team member’s face until I explain what I mean by the word.

In Indonesia there is a famous phrase which is used as education motto. Ing ngarso sung tulodo, ing madya mangun karso, tut wuri handayani ( actually I didn’t remember the phrase in original javanese language so I translate it into japanese language, and of course free translation  🙂  ). I explained it quickly.

The first, Ing ngarso sung tulodo. A true leader, must be able to pull the leaded ones by giving the example by himself. As their words, standing in front, carrying the flag and lead the people. This is common understanding and they swallow it quickly. But I again emphasize that it is not just pulling, but the leader himself must give a good example to the followers so they will follow at their will, not because they are threatened or forced to. This one is when the leader is the top of the organization or the team.

The second, a true leader must also be ready when he must sit inside the crowd, not at the top of organization, not in the front of the people. The true leader should be able to maximize the the potential of the team even when he is just the ordinal member. This is explained by the second phrase, ing madya mangun karso.

The last, a true leader should be able to become a good follower when he should be the one in the back, so he can push the crowd and the team will move forward. This is explained by tut wuri handayani. The true leader should be able to maximize the team capability, even if he is not the one on the top, even if he is in the bottom of the organization.

We need our people to be able to take a role in the company toward these three principles, I explained slowly and carefully in japanese language. In some of the explanation the japanese I probably used not the correct phrases as I can see their faces sometimes show wrinkles on the forehead. But at the end, they finally seem to understand my points because one of the member replied in japanese, she said :


(certainly, the good leader is the one who can be a good follower)

I smile.

The discussion does not stop at the point, we then have hot arguments about the topic which I am pretty sure will take half a day to write it down here 🙂


  1. Salam KoMpaaak Selalu

  2. Daruma says:

    Wow, I wish i can talk like that to those Japanese.

    Mas Arif, salam kenal dari Osaka. Kasi tips-nya dong tentang kerja di Jepang. Saya baru 7 bulan disini, masih meraba-raba.

  3. arif says:

    Salam kenal kembali mas Daruma, untuk bisa bekerja dengan baik, yg pertama belajarlah bahasa Jepang dgn baik. Selamat berjuang mas.

%d bloggers like this: