Leadership Styles

Koji Suzuki, lean sensei, Process Improvement Japan

On leadership styles and business process improvement.

Koji Suzuki says...

What I have often observed is that the past organization and the past methodology develop a tendency to be ineffective when the organization faces a crisis and/or when a new person is assigned as a replacement for someone in a position of responsibility.

Some of these failures may be the result of not establishing systems or standardization for each job`s requirements. If this is important, why can an organization be temporarily successful without it?

One of the reasons is that many things cannot be achieved by the usual way of thinking, so that our experiences, good and bad and the lessons learned from them must be incorporated into standards or systems that allow us to capture and kaizen the past activities.

The second reason is that in those organizations in which most of the decisions have been heavily dependent upon a particular person or group, the person or group becomes the system and standard. For example, if the leadership style is very dictatorial, the dictatorship sometimes works very effectively. However, the weakness appears when the dictator is replaced or leaves and the organization must deal with a drastic impact or problem. I have seen some examples that illustrated this, especially in new organizations.

I believe that, for successful companies, today`s conditions are the result of the accumulation of many successes and failures of the past, and systemization of the lessons learned from those experiences. I believe that our mission is making our best effort to establish the systems and to standardize our work whether it is in sales activities, quality activities, technical development or any other area. For a company to survive and prosper over a long period, it cannot be dependent upon the decisions or strengths of one or only a few people.

Success Story: Leading By Example

The Problem: A few years ago, the president of a U.S based Toyota Motor Corporation company was facing a challenge that so many companies have: Front line team members were not actively suggesting kaizen or quality control improvements.

The President`s Solution: Determined to improve employee engagement, the President called up all front line workers - for a weekly meeting. Meetings between just the front line workers and the President. He told the workers that whatever was said in these meetings would remain confidential. He told them that they could say anything they wished - suggestions or complaints. Cheers or Jeers.

At first, the workers did not know what to think. They were reluctant; perhaps skeptical. They began by talking about simple, unimportant matters. ie: the lights in the locker room were too dim. Whatever complaints or suggestions the workers made, the president took action. The locker room lights were swiftly changed. And when he couldn`t make a change, he would explain why. Slowly, over time, the workers began opening up about more serious issues. Slowly, the president was able to fully understand the Gemba (factory site) and the blockages to employee engagement and motivation in the workplace. Step by step, the president was able to make the changes necessary in order to create a successful lean manufacturing enterprise. His leadership style is an inspiration.

Leadership Styles of The Toyota Motor Corporation

Process Improvement Japan brings light on The Toyota Way because we find their leadership styles to be inspirational. One great leader at TMC is Mr. Yamauchi Yasunori, former Senior Managing Director of TMC & President of Aisin Seki. He is greatly admired not just in the Toyota Group but also throughout Japan. He was directly responsible for maintaining Lexus at #1 on the JD Power Quality Report for years.

For our interview with Mr. Yamauchi on Motivation in the Workplace, click here.

For our interview with Mr. Yamuchi on Employee Engagement, click here.

Leadership for Today: General Stanley McChrystal

An inspiring talk on the effectiveness of great leadership. General McChrystal`s leadership style is shared by industry greats at The Toyota Motor Corporation. Interestingly, the experts here in Japan agree: this leadership style is how Toyota can motivate, inspire and engage their employees. 

The Biggest Mistakes a Leader Can Make

A Harvard Business Video featuring management thought leaders sharing their ideas on how leadership goes wrong. Featuring: Bill George, Evan Wittenberg, Dr. Ellen Langer, Andrew Pettigrew, Gianpiero Petriglieri, Carl Sloane, Jonathan Doochin, Scott Snook, and Daisy Wademan Dowling.

Return from Leadership Styles to Process Improvement Japan

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.