Eiji Toyoda: A Consummate Leader (1913-2013)

The world lost one of its brightest business leaders this week, Eiji Toyoda. Fortunately, he left behind a legacy of leadership philosophies and practices that will continue to inspire and challenge all who study what this man was truly made of.

If you don’t know much about Eiji, you should. His views about the distinct roles played by front-line workers and managers and his unbridled respect for people form the core of Lean. This is the REAL Lean that is practiced by few and misunderstood by many.

In an era where countless organizations attempt Lean for all the wrong reasons and ill-informed improvement professionals spread wildly incorrect information about Lean, may we use this time of reflection to take a collective deep breath and recommit to practicing Lean as it was always intended: Achieving superior business performance through people—in a very specific way.

Here are two superior tributes to Mr. Toyoda that I encourage you to read completely:

Jon Miller, Gemba Panta Rei

Mark Graban, Lean Blog

With deep gratitude to Eiji Toyoda. You are missed.

by Adam Henderson reply

Great write up Karen, we just discussed him and his respect for people and Kaizen on Tuesday in a lean supply chain class and came in Wednesday to hear of his passing. Sad, but he lived a life to be very proud of and has influenced so many under him. Shu Ha Ri leading by teaching and living in reflection! He will be missed.

    by Karen Martin reply

    Thank you, Adam. Even though he lived to be 100, it was still jarring to hear of this amazing man’s passing. Shu Ha Ri lives on!

by Mike Sporer reply

Agreed completely, Karen. Lean is a people-centered respectful way of doing business. Nice tribute….

    by Karen Martin reply

    Thanks Mike! His legacy will live on.


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