22 Sep 1997

Compassion and sense of beauty

The following story is about compassion that flowed out naturally. Taken from John Kotter's book – Matsushita Leadership.

Matsushita is better known for the brand Panasonic and National. Matsushita Electric 1996 sales was about 65 billion US dollar.

The setting was a restaurant in Osaka in 1975. Matsushita met w/ five of his managers. When all six finished the main course, Matsushita leaned over to one of his manager, Ogawa, and asked him to find the chef who cooked his steak. “Not the manager, the chef.” Ogawa then noticed that Matsushita had only eaten half of his entree.

Preparing himself for what could be an extremely awkward scene, Ogawa found the chef and brought him to the table. The cook arrived looking distressed, for he knew that the customer who had summoned him was an exceptionally important person.

“Is there anything wrong?” asks a nervous chef.

“You've gone to all the trouble of broiling the steak,” says Matsushita, “but I could eat only half of it. It's not because it's not good. It's quite delicious. But you see, I'm eighty years old and my appetite isn't what it once was.”

The chef and five other diners exchange confused expressions. It takes everyone a few seconds to realise what is happening.

“I asked to talk to you,” Matsushita continues, “because I was afraid you might feel bad if you saw the half-eaten steak back in the kitchen.