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Toyota puts brakes on crisis leadership

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Family-owned businesses don’t get much bigger than Toyota. Yet, both company President Akio Toyoda and his father, honorary Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda, were curiously silent in January and February during the recall of about 8 million cars.

Instead, an American—Toyota sales executive Jim Lentz—became the company’s public face during the recall, Toyota’s largest and potentially most damaging. Curiously, Lentz isn’t even Toyota’s top U.S. executive, nor is he an engineer, which makes him less than qualified to answer technical questions.

Traditionally, the Toyoda family has played a strong role in upholding the company’s image of quality and reliability, which makes their silence all the more puzzling. Some people have even taken to calling Akio Toyoda “no-show Akio.”

It remains to be seen how badly this recall will hurt Toyota’s standing. But the Toyodas’ apparent unwillingness to take the heat sets a poor example.

— Adapted from “Toyota’s no-show leadership,” Alex Taylor III, Fortune.

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