Didier Leroy isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.
As Toyota Motor Corporation’s chief competitive officer, the charismatic Frenchman wants to inspire change and you don’t do that by throwing soft balls.
During a recent trip to the Toyota's North American HQ, Leroy shared his vision with about 50 team members from across the company on how leadership and globalization can help Toyota achieve real competitiveness.
“Globalization means we can listen carefully and really observe what the needs and expectations of the customers are -- everywhere,” he says. “And we can react quickly and precisely. In many cases, we underestimate the power of the team. But they are blocked by habits we have in the organization. For example, I’ve heard people resist change and say, ‘Well that’s
not the Toyota Way.’ To that I respond, “Isn’t becoming better the Toyota Way? Akio (Toyoda) always says, ‘The Toyota Way is what we will do together for the future.’”
Leroy’s extensive learn-by-doing manufacturing and sales background gives him street cred. He started his career at Renault as an engineer working in the body shop and worked his way up to become one of the youngest plant vice presidents ever. Since joining Toyota in 1998, he’s served in several key roles at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, France, and Toyota Motor Europe. He’s been a TMC executive vice president since 2015 and is a member of TMC’s Board of Directors.
Leroy boils it down to some key leadership principles, which he always carries around on a slip of paper in his shirt pocket. Here are some highlights:
Don’t work to please your boss, Do what’s right for the company
We need leaders in the organization. That means, we need people who can challenge the status quo and take risks. If managers or team members do things for themselves or to please their boss because they want to manage their career and be promoted, they probably won’t take risks. But, when you do things for the company to make it stronger and better, what’s the risk? The risk that other people are disturbed because you want to change the company in the right direction? I don't care about that.
React like an entrepreneur
When you treat Toyota like it’s your company, you will look for efficiency in everything you do because it’s your money, your income and your profit. If we react in the same way for the company, it changes completely the way you do it.
Be an example for your team
How many people in the organization say, “No, I can't do that because I am the boss?" The owner of a business cannot do this sort of thing. If you are not extremely demanding to yourself first, you will never have credibility with your team.
Always keep a fighting spirit
Sharing a Laugh -- Didier Leroy, center, shares a moment with Competitiveness Group Manager Thibaut de
Barros Conti (left) and TMNA CEO Jim Lentz.
I'm a fan of French football (soccer) and if you are the coach at the beginning of the match and tell the team to do their best, but you expect they will lose 5-0 or 6-0, it will be terrible. But if the coach tells the team, ‘Never forget, they are just 11, we are 11. We have exactly the same power. We have the same training. We can beat them at any time.’ I'm not sure that you will win, but at least you will fight until the last minute and never give up.
Stay connected to your team, be accessible
I'm so surprised to see that so many people with a team of 10, 20 or 25 members need an appointment a few weeks before to have a face-to-face discussion with their boss. When I was in the factory we had 4,000 team members and told them if they need something, they don't need to explain what the topic will be. I committed to meet with them within 24 hours. When you open the door like this, people respect it.
Be passionate, create passion
True leaders should bring a lot of energy and passion in everything they do. You will transfer this energy to your team. You should have very ambitious targets. Remove barriers, reinvent the way of doing things, create new processes and speed up the decision making. That’s how we can change the company together.
I urge you to continue to focus on both the customer and the changing customer experience. By identifying competitiveness issues in your own area and taking action immediately, you can make Toyota better in the present and the future. Further, use our new One Toyota organization to truly collaborate across boundaries.
Lastly, challenge and trust each other!
By Karen Nielsen