Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.

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A test of greatness

Q: The once admired carmaker is reeling from revelations about uncontrolled acceleration and the recall of millions of vehicles. Can the company ever regain its renown for quality and its aura of success? Is success always linked to reputation? Would you buy a Toyota now?

When individuals and organizations experience a convergence of skill and good fortune, they achieve success and perhaps even an aura of invincibility.

Toyota had achieved such a reputation, surpassing GM not long ago as the world's largest auto maker. While this recent corporate stumble has shown a lack of quality control and a lapse of the values Toyota has long espoused, there is another test of greatness that we will soon see if Toyota is able to pass. How effective are Toyota's leaders at admitting their mistakes and learning from them?

Leaders show greatness, in part, not by avoiding errors, but by being able to acknowledge and admit them and then to learn something and avoid them the next time. Rarely are leaders recruited or interviewed that they are not asked to recount a mistake they have made. This is not done to ensure a blemish-free leadership record, but to ensure that mistakes that were made actually led to wisdom or at least not to the same mistake again.

Last week, Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda apologized, in a presentation to Congress, for the pain and disappointment that Toyota has caused its customers. While there is more to true contrition than a simple apology, the very act of publicly acknowledging an error and taking accountability is more than many companies, leaders and public figures have done lately. This was certainly a start.

For years, Toyota earned its reputation for greatness by building and selling top-flight cars; it will recover its reputation for greatness by taking accountability and being a learning organization. Toyota will likely find that task harder than making quality cars.

By Hile Rutledge  |  March 1, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  Recovering from failure Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Toyota was knew the potential problem of fly by wire in harsh environments. It is a huge cost savings. The domestic auto companies did not move in that direction for that one reason. Toyota took a gamble against the safety of its customers. It lost. Now it has to pay and pay big.

Posted by: Americacares | March 1, 2010 7:18 PM
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