When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be Like Kanako

Momoiro Clover Z: (From left to right) Momoka, Aarin, Kanako, Shiori, and Reni
Kanako is Awesome

Seriously.

She’s really awesome. Okay, she seems really awesome and well, I’m kinda already grown up. That’s not the point, okay? Ever since I started following Japanese Pop group, Momoiro Clover Z (MCZ), I have been really drawn to MCZ’s charismatic leader, Kanako Momota (red). Sure, Momoka (green) is my favorite member but Kanako is my favorite person. I adore Kanako for what she is or at least what she appears to be. I adore Kanako for those rare moments when the persona slips and we get a glimpse of the precocious young lady behind the goofiness and toothy smile.

I adore leader Kanako.

Watching Kanako’s leadership is so beautiful. It’s like watching Lionel Messi beat five players and score a golazo. It’s like watching my beloved Mesut Ozil make a defense splitting pass. Simply gorgeous. There’s something incredibly satisfying and awesome about watching great people in their element. It’s almost like we revel in their greatness in hopes of it triggering the greatness that lies within ourselves.

I revel in Kanako’s leadership in hopes of its greatness rubbing off on me.

Leadership ain’t easy.

As someone who manages a communication firm, I have learned a lot about leadership through trial and error. Though I have taken organizational behavior and management courses, I still have a lot to learn about leadership. Kanako, on the other hand, seems to have a knack for it. Kanako seemingly understands emotional and social elements of leadership instinctively. Much of my observations of Kanako’s leadership qualities have been through a Momokanako (Momoka and Kanako pairing) tinted lens. However, through their interactions, Kanako taught me a lot about great leadership.

I started to really notice Kanako’s leadership acumen two years ago during my favorite MCZ-branded program, Folkmura. Folkmura is basically like MTV’s Unplugged but it is centered around MCZ’s acoustic collaborations with other Japanese artists. I really love the show because I love Momoka’s performances and I love ‘discovering’ legendary Japanese acts. Anyway, during the March 2015 episode, Momoka really struggled to perform up to her usual high standards. As she bravely powered through her performances, it became more and more apparent that something wasn’t right. However, things started to change during Momoka’s duet with Kanako.

It started with Kanako breaking the ice with her usual charm and it ended with Momoka slowly finding her feet again. What stoodout to me wasn’t so much how Kanako tried to lighten the mood but the little gestures Kanako made throughout the performance. When Momoka seemed to struggle the most, Kanako lightly squeezed her hand and offered a smile. Other times, Kanako diverted the attention away from Momoka by getting the audience to focus on her. No matter the gesture, Kanako seemed to say to Momoka, “Hey, I’m with you. We’ll get through this together.” It was an incredibly touching expression of compassion from Kanako but above all, it demonstrated Kanako’s emotional intelligence and supportive leadership style.

Great leaders are keenly aware of their own emotions as well as those around them. They can quickly assess situations and provide support if necessary.

Kanako’s display during the March 2015 Folkmura wasn’t the only example of Kanako’s instinctive leadership. Another example took place during the group’s 24hr live stream. As different members sang and or listened to tunes, Momoka isolated herself from the rest of the members. Noticing Momoka’s isolation, Kanako responded immediately. Suddenly, Kanako moved towards Momoka and lay her head on Momoka’s lap. This simple gesture not only removed any distance between Momoka and the group but it reinforced the group’s cohesion and camaraderie. More importantly, it demonstrated Kanako’s quick thinking, self-awareness and social awareness.

Great leaders are always aware of potentially awkward social situations. They carefully consider what people want, and respond to them in a way that meets their explicit or implicit needs.

Kanako possesses many other leadership qualities but it’s her emotional intelligence combined with her social awareness that provides meaningful insight into what it means to be an effective leader.

Kanako teaches us that leadership isn’t just about motivation. Leadership isn’t just about motivating others to expend effort and work towards a common goal. Though motivation is still important, understanding the needs of individuals is crucial to motivating them to work towards that common goal. Kanako is so incredibly attuned to the needs of the other members of MCZ that she seems to always know what they need when they need it. It’s why she continues to inspire trust, loyalty, and genuine affection from the other members. It’s also a major reason why the group has stayed together for almost a decade.

Great leadership inspires others and in turn, it reinforces their commitment to the common goal.

After almost a decade of leading, Kanako continues to inspire Momoiro Clover Z to greater heights. Whether it be preparing the group for a Olympics 2020 feature or helping the members themselves realize their potential, one thing is for sure, Kanako will be at the heart of their success for many years to come.

For someone barely out of her twenties, it’s amazing how fundamentally solid Kanako is as a leader. Though she’d probably admit, she still has room to grow — there’s still so much to admire about Kanako Momota. Never in a million years did I think I’d learn so much about leadership from a Japanese girl several years younger than me but that’s a testament to Kanako’s inspirational leadership. When I finally grow up, I don’t want to be like Kanako — I want to lead like Kanako.