12. Aug. 2014

Have Your Leaders Earned It?

by Jon Miller

Lean leadership principles are revealed in this excerpt from an interview with a Toyota managing director.

It's the sign of a business culture built from a management system at work when the same questions elicit consistent answers from different executives within the same company. This struck home while reading an article titled "Leadership is best when you earn it" in the July 31st Hindustan Times. It was an interview with Naomi Ishii, the 49 year old incoming managing director of Toyota Kirloskar in India. Here are excerpts from the answers he gave.

Q: How do you define a leader?

A: A leader is one who sets up a system for the way forward and develops people.

Q: How do you nurture young executive leaders?

A: I always give them a challenging task depending on their capability. It's a continuous process where at regular intervals you have to assess, identify and assign a difficult task.

Q: Can you learn leadership? How?

A: There are some inherent traits that [...] make people want to follow them. But equally important is learned behaviour. You can train yourself to be a good leader.

Q: What is the biggest leadership challenge you've faced?

A: The most challenging task I have is to ensure that everyone in my team works towards a common goal and work towards the betterment of the company.

Q: What is your leadership mantra?

A: Leading with the minds and ideas of all of my team put together. I would like to bring out the best ideas my team has and channelize them the right way helping my team and the organization to grow.

Q: What is the biggest leadership lesson that you have learnt?

A: I have learnt that leadership is best when you earn it. Leadership that is imposed using your designation or authority is no good. I believe a natural leader is one who leads his team to learning and success and one who people would like to follow.  Leadership is an honor that you earn.

Perhaps Mr. Ishii was reading from a "Toyota Managing Director's Manual" to give such classically "Toyota-esque" answers. But if such a document existed, it would at best create the type of leaders capable of giving the answers above, not of living the behaviors necessary to truly lead.

Does your management system create leaders who give the right answers, or live the right behaviors?

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