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The leadership behaviour of Yoshi Inaba

Question: Where on the continuum of leadership behavior would you place Yoshi Inaba, and why?

In 1938, Lewin and Lippitt proposed classifications of leaders based on how much involvement leaders placed into task and relationship needs. This range of leadership behaviors was expressed along a continuum by Tannenbaum & Schmidt in 1973, ranging from boss-centered to subordinate-centered.

The furthest on one side is boss centered or dictatorial while the furthest on the other end is subordinate centred or democractic.  According to Certo & Certo (2006, pp 357), this continuum ranges from full authority and decision making by the boss to full freedom to subordinates.  Generally, the continuum moves from dictatorial to autocratic to a democratic leadership. In order to choose the most appropriate style the leader must consider four factors which are forces in the manager, forces in the subordinate, situation and time pressure.

Forces in the manager are about the belief the leader have in his employee’s capabilities.  The higher the confident level of the manager in his subordinates, the higher the forces is.

Forces in the subordinate are about the level of subordinate’s capability and ability.  If the subordinate is capable, independent and is ready to make decision, then the forces is higher.

Situation is about the environment that the organisation, the leader and the subordinate is in.  Environment can play pivotal role to affect how the three components interface and interact with each other.

Time factor is about the time limit the leader has to make the decision.  If there is a pressure for immediate decision it might mitigates against a more consensus participation as this will take time and the leader usually will opt for singular decision.

The continuum gives advantage to the manager for a range of choice of involvement with subordinates. It also allows the manager to have higher focus for relevant criteria such as the forces and time.  The manager can also emphasize more effort for employee development and empowerment.  However the continuum theory is also limited that it only involves the initial step of assigning the task and not the following processes which is usually the determining factor of its effectiveness.  It also does not count any social bonds or politics in office and the continuum is simpler in theory rather than the complex reality.

Yoshi Inaba’s leadership behavior fits into subordinate-centered leadership based on the Tannenbaum and Schmidt Leadership Continuum.  Inaba is defined as a leader that “Manager defines limits, ask the group to make a decision”.

This was shown when he first came to Toyota US Division and proclaims that he is very concerned on instilling a bottom-line orientation where subordinates are highly involved in decision making process.  He took the unprecedented step and released all profit and expense data to all U.S. sales personnel.  This is not something that other Japanese executive would ever do.

He simply goes against the tradition and proves that he has in him the ability to go against the current and make changes.  Sharing the data was done to instill the understanding to all the personnel on how their actions will affect the financial performance of Toyota as a whole.  Inaba hoped that when the personnel understand and have a better conceptual view of the organisation, they will be more productive and will produce in the way that the organisation wanted and aspire (Certo & Certo 2006).

The limit has already been defines by Inaba as each executive is aware of their roles as sales executives but however he inspired each sales executive by giving them the information of all profit and expense data.  By doing this, Inaba is defining the problem and is asking the group to make a decision on their day to day operations.  The employees will have a better room to give ideas to Inaba and will have a group decision making.  However, there is a danger that the subordinate might took that the manager intention is not genuine and the subordinate would just follow the manager ideas.

In proving that Inaba is genuinely asking his subordinate to get involved, that is why Inaba disclosed all the expense and profit data to his employees and invites his employees to have a more feeling of belonging with Toyota.

Inaba is a subordinate centered leader as he have complete faith in his subordinate and expects them to contribute in the decision making process.  This is pivotal that majority of his decision come under Group Consult.  He often gave information to his employees and will ask for their feedback.  This did not backfired but instead gave Inaba more input from the grassroot level which is pivotal for his managerial decisions.

Under Inaba’s leadership, Toyota U.S. profit increased drastically and doubled which is a significant contribution to Toyota as a whole. This accounted for up to 80 per cent of the company’s global profits in recent years.

Employees under Inaba had well perceived that Inaba is a manager that is a subordinate centred.  Inaba has instilled a feeling of come forward to his employees.  There is also an instance where Inaba received feedback from his officials in U.S. division to give discount to rental car companies that buy in volume.

The employees are willing to give feedback to Inaba as they are aware that Inaba will make decision partnership with his employees. Inaba get the group together and go through all the details.  Data and information are brought in.  Inaba is commited that sales are not about volume but about return and profits and define that this is the limit.

Having understands these, the group engaged in a serious discussion within the boundary that sales are about return and profits.  Apparently the decisions to give discount to rental car will only increases volume but not return and profits.  After some further investigation however, the group decided not to give away for discount. This decision was only implemented after Inaba and his employees agree and arrive at the decision.

This inevitably shows that Inaba defines the limit and ask the group to make a decision and fit into a subordinate centered continuum behavior where the manager defines the limits and ask the group to make a decision.

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