Success Secrets of 9 Top Leaders
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U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye
But that all changed when he lost his right arm in combat during World War II and had to find another way to make a difference.
“You can’t do surgery with one hand,” Inouye says. “So I decided I was going to be a politician, to the chagrin of a lot of people, including my folks. … But I wanted to participate in making certain that people of this country didn’t have to go through the experience I did.”
His leadership training began early. As the seventh-generation eldest son of the eldest son, his Japanese parents made it a point that he be the leader of his family, and to always remember honor, duty and country. When Inouye joined the armed services, his father told him, unhesitatingly, “Whatever you do, don’t dishonor the family or dishonor the country. If you must die, die with honor.”
Scoring well on his aptitude test, he quickly became a leader. At age 19, he was named sergeant of his platoon, responsible for the lives of 41 men. With the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, consisting almost entirely of Japanese-Americans, company commander Maj. Thomas William Akins taught him you don’t ask your followers to do things you wouldn’t do. “You have to be able to demonstrate to them that what you’re asking them is not unreasonable,” Inouye says.
After the war, Inouye attended law school, intent on becoming a politician. He ran for the territorial House in 1954 and has been in office for Hawaii ever since.
In the U.S. Senate, he works successfully across partisan lines by being fair. For example, the largest item facing the Senate Committee on Appropriations is the defense budget. For fiscal year 2009, it’s budgeted for $487 billion. “That’s a lot of money, and yet it was approved by the [Subcommittee on Defense] that I chair in 20 minutes,” he says. “We worked with each individual before the meeting.”
Inouye has a strong liberal ranking in the Senate, but in Hawaii he gets along well with the military, business and banking communities.
“Reality says, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you’re a business leader.
Am I going to ignore the bank president because he’s a Republican?” Inouye asks. “I make it a point that I don’t want to know what you are.”
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