Soichiro Honda Leadership
Soichiro Honda (1906-91)
Japanese co-founder of Honda, the motorcycle and car maker
He (pictured right) made it into one of the world’s most successful companies.
Why was he a great leader?
1. Learning from failure
To succeed he went through much failure and overcame the fear of it like his hero, Thomas Edison (pictured right).
“Success represents the one percent of your work, which results from the 99 percent that is called
failure”, Honda said.
He was totally passionate and enthusiastic about motor racing and making
motorcycles and cars.
A life changing event was the thrill he experienced as a small boy, seeing a car for the first time.
His father, a blacksmith, gave him a love of mechanical things and making them.
“The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply
stirred”, Honda said.
3. Determination and ambition
At the age of 11 he rode 20 km on his father’s bicycle and climbed a tree to see an aeroplane’s aerobatic
He had the will to win and challenged himself to achieve his dream of making
the best cars and motorcycles.
4. Rebel and innovator
He loved experimenting and challenging existing knowledge and old ways of
“We can only have one future, and it will be made of our dreams, if we have the courage to challenge
convention”, he said.
So Honda (pictured right as a young man):
- continually thought up new products and ideas (registering 150
- was always totally committed to developing new and improved engine technology like low
He wanted his employees to enjoy themselves, be creative and express their
own ideas, like he did.
He believed that a company is most successful, if each individual is happy and fulfilled.
“Real happiness lies in the completion of work, using your own brain and skills”, he said.
He judged people on their ability to achieve results, not on their status or position, always
listening to their good ideas.
He seized any opportunities that life gave him.
When his factory was destroyed by bombs in 1945, he briefly made a living from brewing alcohol!
In 1949 he made the first of his hugely popular motorcycles (the Dream, pictured right), which
beat the quality and reliability of the bikes of its leading competitors:
- America’s Harley-Davidson.
In the early 1980’s, the Honda Civic and Accord cars were also successful
because of their fuel economy
He was also the first Japanese boss to set up an American factory to avoid laws limiting
7. Continuous improvement
Honda always aimed for continuous improvement in everything he did, and he encouraged his employees to do the
After Honda’s first win in Formula One motor racing ( its car is pictured right), he said
- would study why they won.
- use that knowledge to improve and win more races.
Honda withdrew from Formula One in 2008 because of the cost.
8. Aggression and ambition
He wanted Honda to be the world’s best car and motorcycle maker, and aggressively attacked his competitors.
One of Honda’s slogans was simply, “Slaughter Yamaha!”
9. Risk taker
He was prepared to gamble and expand his business, even when close to bankruptcy in the early
He needed the support of:
- his partner, and friend, Takeo Fujisawa (on the right in the picture with
Fujisawa looked after the company’s management, whilst Honda took charge of engineering and developing new
11. Hard work
Honda worked very long hours, and, after rebelling at school, he went back to college to study metallurgy to
help with building new engines.
12. “The Honda way”
This is what he called his basic approach to business:
• find out what customers want.
• create products that uniquely satisfy them with exceptional performance, quality and
• use your reputation to expand into other different products.
Key quote on
Success represents the one percent of your work, which results from the 99 percent that is called failure.
Key quotes on
The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred.
Key quote on
Real happiness lies in the completion of work, using your own brain and skills.
Key quote on vision and
We can only have one future, and it will be made of our dreams, if we have the courage to challenge
Key quote on interviewing and
Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t like.