Its commitment to its employees is long-term
By Charles Waldo
Organizations vary widely in their methods of identifying and raising leaders. Some take the “Learn on the job, sink or swim” approach, where it’s up to individuals to develop themselves. At the opposite end of the development spectrum are those organizations which use long-term, elaborate processes that might even include several, fully-paid years off earning a graduate degree. Generally, the larger the organization the more formalized the development process.
Where do you turn to for guidance on leader identification and development? Fortunately (or confusingly) there are hundreds of “how to” books and magazines; thousands of independent trainers and coaches; zillions of seminars and training events; scores of universities; and so on. How do you select the leadership development method that is best?
One proven method is to identify organizations which have been highly successful over the long haul, the assumption being that to be successful they have had and do have effective leaders. Then find out what leader development methods they use and evaluate which your organization might adopt or adapt. Identifying long-term, successful organizations is not so hard, but getting “inside” them to discover their leadership development strategies can be another story.
Toyota is either #1 or #2, depending upon how measured, in worldwide car sales. Toyota is pushing to be #1 in the U.S. with almost 2.5 million unit sales in 2016; directly employs about 136,000 associates in four U.S. final assembly plants and numerous parts supply plants; and is indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of other Americans employed by suppliers. Quality levels, especially as measured by J.D. Powers, are almost always at or very near the top of ratings charts. Toyota is surely doing something (or a lot) right. But what and how does one find out what that is?
Fortunately, Toyota is very open about how it does The Toyota Way – its operating philosophy, culture, and strategies. Dr. Jeffrey Liker, professor of management at the University of Michigan, has studied Toyota intensely since the early 1980s and, with co-authors, has published eight very detailed books about various aspects of Toyota, especially Toyota USA. One such book is The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence Through Leadership Development (2012, co-authored with Gary Convis, former Managing Director of Toyota USA). Here are a few key principles and practices.