Examining the Japanese leadership orientations and their changes

Bahaudin G. Mujtaba (The H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
Kazuhito Isomura (Graduate School of International Accounting, Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 8 June 2012



The purpose of this paper is to analyse the leadership tendencies of Japanese people and relevant changes over time while exploring their task and relationship orientations on the basis of culture.


In order to explore the behavioural tendencies of working adults in the Japanese workplace, the paper focused on comparing the leadership orientations of 231 respondents on the basis of age, gender and public/private sector work experience. To deepen the understanding of Japanese leadership orientation, the authors precisely examine Japanese culture, organisation and management practices.


Japanese respondents have a significantly higher score on the relationship orientation. Their task score is also in the moderately high range. Japanese males were found to be more task‐oriented. No differences were found based on public/private sector work experience. However, older Japanese have a significantly higher focus on task orientation compared to their younger colleagues.

Research limitations/implications

One of the limitations is the small number of responses. One specific limitation is the fact that this study was conducted with a convenient sample population. Future studies can compare specific populations in different parts of the country with similar working backgrounds and demographic variables.

Practical implications

The findings that Japanese employees are more focused on their relationship but that they also have a moderately high task orientation score are useful for managers and expatriates working in Japan to understand the behavioural tendencies of Japanese people and the relevant changes over time.


Japan is a high‐context culture; therefore Japanese people are traditionally regarded to be relationship‐oriented, and this was confirmed academically in the findings of this research. However, the paper showed that the Japanese also have a moderately high task orientation.



Mujtaba, B. and Isomura, K. (2012), "Examining the Japanese leadership orientations and their changes", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 401-420. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437731211229322

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