Toyota Way – Principle 9

Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others

«Until senior management gets their egos out of the way and goes to the whole team and leads them all together … senior management will continue to miss out on the brain power and extraordinary capabilities of all their employees. At Toyota, we simply place the highest value on our team members and do the best we can to listen to them and incorporate their ideas into our planning process».
Alex Warren, former Senior VP,
former Senior VP, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky

Toyota does not go shopping for “successful” CEOs or presidents, because their leaders must perfectly understand and live the Toyota culture in daily work.

“Since a critical element of the culture is genchi genbutsu, which means observing the real situation in detail and thoroughly, leaders must demonstrate this skill and understand how things are done on the shop floor within Toyota.”

According to the Toyota model, a superficial impression of the real situation in any of Toyota´s divisions would lead to ineffective decision-making and leadership. Toyota also expects their leaders to teach their employees the Toyota Way, which means they must assimilate this philosophy.

Toyota also expects their leaders to teach their team members the “Toyota Way”, which implies that they must understand and live the philosophy. 

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Gary Convis sees the Toyota Way as a four-dimensional system, where only one of its dimensions refers to the technical tools usually associated with lean – JIT, jidoka, heijunka etc.. According to Convis, these methodologies are only technical tools and can only be effective with the right management and the right philosophy – that is, the basic way of acting and thinking. But it´s the people who take the center stage in the Toyota Way.

Source: The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the
World’s Greatest Manufacturer, Jeffrey K.Liker

Toyota leaders combine a thorough understanding of the job and the ability to develop, mentor, and lead people. They are respected for their technical knowledge as well as followed for their leadership skills.

“Toyota leaders hardly give instructions. In fact, they often guide and mentor by asking questions. The leaders will ask questions about the situation and the person´s strategy for taking action, but will not give the answer to these questions, even if they know it.”

If we look at all the great leaders in Toyota’s history, we can see that they have several characteristics in common:

  • Focusing on a long-term purpose of Toyota to contribute added value to society.
  • Never deviating from the principles of the Toyota Way and being a role model for  making it perceptible for everyone.
  • Working their way up by doing their job conscientiously, continually going to the Gemba, where the work that adds value is actually done.
  • Seeing problems as opportunities to coach and support their people.

There is one quote that is often repeated at Toyota: “Before we make cars, we make people.” The goal of Toyota leaders is to develop people to be great contributors who think and follow the Toyota Way at all levels of the organization.

The real challenge for lean leaders is to have the long-term vision of knowing what needs to be done, the knowledge of how it needs to be done and the ability to develop people so that they can understand and do their jobs excellently.

The payback for this dedication is more profound and sustainable for a company’s competitiveness and longevity than employing a leader to simply solve immediate financial problems, make the right decision for a given situation, or provide new short-term solutions to bail a company out of bad situation. A lean company that grows its leaders from within and defines the ultimate role of leadership as “building a learning organization” is laying the bedrock for real long-term success.

The ActioGlobal team recommends you to read Jeff Liker’s bestseller, The Toyota Way. Following the reading, experimentation on the Gemba will provide the real learning.

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