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Present detailed answers, using 6 academic references to support them, to the questions posed
at the end of this case study: Toyota’s tough boss in approximately 2,000 words in total:
Read the following case study and answer all the questions.
CASE: TOYOTA’S TOUGH BOSS
Hiroshi Okuda is not afraid to speak his mind or impose radical change in an
organization. And because of these traits he is memorable at Toyota Motor
Corporation where he is the chairman of the board. Prior to becoming chairman,
Okuda served as Toyota’s president – the first non-family member in over 30 years to
head the company. He also is unusual among other Japanese executives because, in
Japan, executives are supposed to be unseen. Okuda justifies his outspoken and
aggressive style as being necessary to change a company that had become lethargic
(i.e. tired) and overly bureaucratic.
Okuda moved ahead at Toyota by taking jobs that other employees did not want. For
example, in the early 1980s the company was trying to build a manufacturing facility in
Taiwan, but the Taiwanese government’s demands for high local content, technology
transfer and guaranteed exports convinced many at Toyota that the project should be
scrapped. Okuda thought differently. He successfully lobbied for the facility in the
company, and it is now very profitable for Toyota. As Okuda noted, ‘Everyone wanted
to give up. But I restarted the project and led it to success.’ His drive and ability to
overcome obstacles were central to his rise in the company’s hierarchy.
When Okuda ascended to the presidency of Toyota in early 1995 the company
was losing market share in Japan to both Mitsubishi and Honda. Okuda
attributed this problem to several factors. Toyota had been losing touch with
Japanese customers for years. For example, when engineers redesigned the
Corolla in 1991 they made it too big and too expensive for Japanese tastes.
Then four years later, in an attempt to lower costs significantly, they stripped
out so many features in the car that the Corolla looked too cheap. Competitors,
on the other hand, had also done a much better job of identifying the boom in
recreational vehicles – especially the sport-utility market. Toyota’s burdensome
bureaucracy also bothered Okuda. A decision that took only five minutes to 8
filter through at Suzuki Motor Corporation would take upwards of three weeks
at Toyota.
In his first 18 months on the job Okuda implemented some drastic changes. In a
country where lifetime employment is consistent with the culture, he replaced
nearly one-third of Toyota’s highest-ranking executives. He revamped Toyota’s
long-standing promotion system based on seniority, adding performance as a
factor. Some outstanding performers moved up several managerial levels in
one go – something unheard of in the history of the company.
Okuda also worked with the company’s vehicle designers to increase the speed
at which the vehicle went from concept to market. What once took 27 months
was shortened to 18 months. And now the company is making a custom car
within five days of receiving an order.
Finally, Okuda is using the visibility of his job to address larger social issues
facing all Japanese businesses. For instance, he accused Japan’s Finance
Ministry of trying to destroy the car industry by driving up the yen’s value. And
he has been an audible voice in the country, condemning the lax lending
practices that forced Japanese banks to write off billions of dollars in bad loans
and led, in part, to that country’s economic crisis in the late 1990s and early
2000.
Unfortunately, some of Okuda’s actions may have backfired. It has been
suggested that the reason he was removed as president of the company in June
1999 was that he had overstepped the boundary at times with his blunt
demands for change; and his refusal to bail out other members of the Toyota
keiretsu may have offended the founding Toyota family. However, even though
he was no longer president, his strategic leadership helped him to be appointed
to the chairman’s job.SOURCE: Robbins, Bergmann, Stagg and Coulter 2006, p600, Pearson
Questions:
Answer all four (4) of the following questions.
1. Explain the different leadership styles (not theories) defined in the academic
literature and discuss what style of leadership is the most appropriate in different
environmental situations and with different categorisations of employees.
2. Based on your answer to Question 1 (above) how would you describe Hiroshi
Okuda’s leadership style/s? Cite specific examples in the case study that support
your choice.
3. Explain the terms ‘transactional’ and ‘transformational’ leadership. What form did
Hiroshi Okuda exhibit? Cite specific examples in the case study that support your
choice.
4. When a company is in crisis, do you believe that a radical change in leadership is
required to turn the company around? Why? Why not?9
Your answers to the Case Study should be presented as four (4) distinct answers that are
presented with a covering introduction to the whole case study (no more than 150 words). You
should divide your assignment into a brief introduction, discussion (of each of the four
questions-up to 450 words-no more-on each question) and brief conclusion section to the case
study (no more than 100 words). Reference list is not included in word count.
The objective of the exercise is to enable you to develop and present an argument which is
convincing and well supported and is within word constraints.
The answers should be written in paragraph form using appropriate headings and sub-headings
based on your reading of the case study and additional research. Please ensure that it is
thoroughly and correctly referenced using the Harvard referencing system. It is expected that
students would use a minimum of 6 different reference sources in the body of this
assignment. Of the 6 reference sources, at least one should be an article from a scholarly
journal. Where less than 6 references are used within the body of the assignment it would be
difficult to achieve a grade higher than P2. Assignments that are not correctly referenced will
incur heavy penalties. See course site for Harvard referencing guide. Please note that there will
be some useful references on the course site to assist you



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