As leaders, we tend to forget what is right or wrong while dealing with a business and finances. Go back to the basics and keep in mind that money is not everything — it is not the only determiner of success. Don’t forget that you’ve learned most of what you need to know to be a good person and leader in kindergarten. Those lessons from very early on in your life are still applicable today — no matter what type of leadership position you hold.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tatsuro “Tony” Kano, Head of Canon’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group.
As Executive Vice President and General Manager of Canon U.S.A.’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group (ITCG), Tatsuro “Tony” Kano oversees activities for consumer and professional imaging products, which include camera, lens, video, inkjet printer, projector, display, cinema, broadcast lenses, including customer support operations and new business innovation.
Prior to assuming his new role on April 1, 2020, Mr. Kano was a Senior Vice President and General Manager in ITCG, a role he held until March 2020.
Mr. Kano began his business career in Japan at Canon Inc., where he worked in the Product Planning Group within the company’s Camera Division from 1984 to 1991. From 1991 to 1998, Mr. Kano worked as a Manager at Canon Singapore, where he directed the camera business for the South Asia region. Upon returning to Tokyo in 1998, Mr. Kano joined the Canon Inc. Camera Division as an Assistant Manager.
In December of 2001, Mr. Kano came to the United States as a Manager for Canon U.S.A.’s Camera Division, and was promoted to Senior Manager two years later, in 2003. Mr. Kano became Director of the division in 2006, and one year later, the Assistant General Manager.
Mr. Kano was promoted to Senior Director of Canon U.S.A.’s Camera Division in 2009, and Vice President and General Manager in 2011. He was promoted to Senior Vice President and General Manager, Camera and Video Marketing Division, in 2017.
Mr. Kano holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Rikkyo University.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
In April 2020, I became head of Canon U.S.A.’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group (ITCG), where I now oversee all activities for consumer and professional imaging products. I never thought I would be the leader of ITCG or a position even close. The past three years have consistently brought new challenges that have pushed me to not only grow professionally but personally.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of working alongside incredible leaders. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from each of them, which all helped me to create my own leadership style and vision. But even more importantly, I often find that my own coworkers and those in my business group are the greatest source of learning. Every single person in your organization has something to teach leadership — whether it be the nature of their work or processes, and even their own philosophies and visions for the company. As leaders, we can’t forget that we are not the only source of strength and ideas — we are ultimately in a collaborative unit that relies on the collective to move forward. I’ve also had the honor to be a mentor for Canon’s W.I.L.L. (Women in Leadership Levels) Program, exposing me to an array of amazing women at Canon, as well as their unique perspectives and distinct ways of thinking. These mentoring partnerships have been mutually beneficial for all of us. My family has greatly improved my ability to be a leader, especially my son — he’s taught me how to communicate in an approachable and kind way just by being himself
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
My mistake was trying to realize the American management style, top-down, that I had envisioned for myself when I was first assigned to the company as a Manager. I think my failure was that I was too conscious of the fact that a person of a different nationality was going to be the leader, and I left behind the Japanese way of thinking and my own style and individuality that I had learned up to that point. However, I have come to realize that what is most important is not what country you are from, but what is best for the organization, and to achieve this, it is most important to reevaluate yourself, utilize your individuality, and take action to help the members of the organization achieve their full potential.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
When I was reading a lot of books about my own way of leadership, I came across the concept of Shared Leadership. This concept, with a particular focus on the shared approach, has worked very well for myself and my team and has helped me to define the idea of leadership more clearly. Shared leadership is not a concentration of power and authority in the hands of an individual leader at the top of an organization, but rather multiple people influencing each other at different levels and at different times. It is a flexible, collective, non-hierarchical approach.
It should allow individual talents to shine through and allow each person to fulfill his or her potential. We must lead in a way that empowers and gives confidence to the team, and two-way communication plays an important role in this. I personally try to create an environment where people around me can voice their opinions and be heard, rather than just expressing my own.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
Effective management is mandatory when running an organization. However, a top-down management style, where the highest-level members make all the decisions and the lower-level team follows suit, is not optimal or worthwhile. A top-down approach stifles individual talent and hinders personal growth. I highly encourage and support leaders who utilize two-way communication, as it’s more practical when creating and fostering an engaging work environment. In business and in life, you must be open to new ideas, experiences, and ways of doing things. When you stop being open, you stop growing.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
My main priority is to help and encourage my colleagues to grow — to expand on the knowledge they already have. You want to think of your colleagues as your family. Of course there, are specific differences between the two groups, but it’s an important comparison from an emotional, human level. For example, with your family members, it’s important to ask yourself: How do I help my family members succeed? What is in my power to help them move forward and feel fulfilled? You identify opportunities that will inspire them to achieve growth and support them along the way. We must think the same way towards our colleagues. I believe in leading positively and actively listening to those around me to allow everyone to feel heard, understood, and valued. Being attentive and having open discussions can benefit those who are troubled and stressed out — that is true at work and at home. Also, saying “thank you” might feel small but it’s an incredibly impactful phrase that can go a very long way with people. Nonverbal cues such as smiling are equally important– this one gesture can shift a conversation in a positive way.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
Remove a mindset that seems to stubbornly cling to a rigid, top-down management style. You need to stay humble, communicate, and listen to your team. An important action as a leader is to walk around, listen, and then give back. I try to practice these three important behaviors on a daily basis, whether I am in the office or working from home. These simple behavioral changes help me better understand my team and create an environment where I can work most effectively as a leader. From this, I am confident that new discoveries and insights can always be gleaned.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Starting any leadership role is difficult but analyzing who you are is an imperative place to start. Take a long, hard look at yourself and self-reflect — knowing yourself is the foundation of solid character, purpose, and authenticity. Listen to feedback from those around you — especially if it’s critical. Your personality is your best tool, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t brush up on it every once in a while.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
The late Kazuo Inamori, a prominent Japanese business leader, taught that management is about living the right way as a human being. As leaders, we tend to forget what is right or wrong while dealing with a business and finances. Go back to the basics and keep in mind that money is not everything — it is not the only determiner of success. Don’t forget that you’ve learned most of what you need to know to be a good person and leader in kindergarten. Those lessons from very early on in your life are still applicable today — no matter what type of leadership position you hold.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
I’m constantly reminding myself not to cut corners and try my absolute hardest. And for me, preparation is everything. When leaders fail, it’s usually attributed to a lack of preparation. Remember that successful leaders don’t assume they know better than everyone else.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
I aspire to be a leader who can successfully develop others. I hope to instill in the younger generation at Canon that great leaders admit when they’ve made a mistake, and the best leaders learn from them. Your humility and humanity will be your greatest tools as a leader.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
It would be great to connect with people on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/tony-kano-b6018617/
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!