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Toyota- a Leadership Crisis

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

Oftentimes our leadership failures are not life-threatening, but when they are, as in the case of Toyota’s response to the multiple reports of accidents from sticking accelerators, it only adds fat to the fire.  I have encountered only one life-threatening situation on the job during my life span.

During my internship at a large, prestigious training hospital, I had a patient whose surgery left her worse off than had she never had the surgery. Because the mishap landed her on a respirator for six months flat on her back, the mistake in her family’s eyes was indeed life-threatening.  I overheard them talking one day, saying, “If we don’t soon get an explanation and apology, we’ll sue!” A week later, the family spoke openly about how much they appreciated the sincere apology and honest admission of a misplaced incision. “It was a human mistake,” they conceded.  Still, I imagine there are times when apologies and explanations are given to harsh, unforgiving ears. Humanistic leadership is a two-way street.

Once we hear CEO Toyoda speak before a Congressional hearing, how will we respond? I have a notion that we’ll see a more timely response to future accident reports, assuming Toyoda offers a transparent account of where he and his team failed the public and how the enactment of new policies will preclude a similar future public outrage.  This may be exactly the crisis Toyoda himself needs to start him on a path of more enlightened leadership.

William George, Harvard Business professor wrote his take on the crisis Toyota is currently experiencing in a recent blog post this week.  To read the full story, click here.  George details Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda‘s actions of hiding and avoiding the true problems have created a leadership crisis for his company.  It’s too soon to tell how long a recovery make take or how successful that recovery will be for Toyota.  To help Akio Toyoda, George offers his advice, based on his recent book, 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.

How do you feel Akio Toyoda handled himself and the media during this challenging time?  What did he do that was good; what should he have done differently?