Japanese Leadership: The Case of Testsundo Iwakuni

23 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Maki DePalo

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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While mayor of Izumo, Japan, Tetsundo Iwakuni, a former investment banker for Merrill Lynch, was voted the most popular mayor in Japan. Having lived abroad (in England, France, and the United States) as an investment banker, Iwakuni had left his corporate career to pursue public service. After a productive term as mayor of Izumo, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Tokyo. This case describes his personal life and career and ends with his election to the Japanese Diet (Parliament) from a Tokyo district. The case provides students with an opportunity to explore leadership style, career-management issues, and international management principles from a Japanese point of view. A teaching note is available to registered faculty, along with a video interview with Testundo Iwakuni to enhance student learning.





In 1993, a national survey revealed that Tetsundo Iwakuni, mayor of Izumo City, was the most popular of Japan's 656 mayors. Based on his strong, positive national image, as well as his brief but remarkable term as mayor, Iwakuni ran for the national Diet seat from Setagaya in spring 1995. His decision to do so testified to his varied and interesting career as a domestic businessman, an international investment banker, and a local politician with national prominence. His story shed light on the nature of Japanese leadership and the challenges it continued to face.


Iwakuni's story began on the southern coast of Honshu in the Kansai Region. Iwakuni was born in Osaka in July 1936. In December 1943, in the midst of World War II, Iwakuni's father passed away: Iwakuni was only seven years old. In later years, Iwakuni would remember his father as a generous man who had taken him on business trips and to baseball games. After Iwakuni's father passed away, Iwakuni's mother decided to escape the imminent threat of Allied bombing of Osaka by taking Iwakuni and his younger sister westward across the central mountain range to her ancestral home in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture.

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Keywords: career management, community relations, international business, leadership, cross-cultural issues, work/family, diverse protagonist, nationality, culture, diversity issues

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G. and DePalo, Maki, Japanese Leadership: The Case of Testsundo Iwakuni. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0627, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910732

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

Maki DePalo

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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