This comes to mind in considering the speech that Akio Toyoda, president and director of Toyota, delivered on May 18 to Babson College's 636 newest master's degree holders. Half of Babson students are from family businesses, and many of my students are there to learn how to lead those businesses into the future.
Toyoda -- who earned his MBA from Babson in 1982 and whose son graduated from the college in 2014 -- is a case in point. His great-grandfather "invented the automatic weaving loom, and his grandfather Kiichiro took Toyota from a fabric company to a car company in its second generation," he told listeners.
Toyoda's advice to graduates centered on how being a better person can inspire others to be better as well. Though I did not attend the ceremony since I was in Israel leading a course for 22 Babson undergraduates, I admire the way he provided valuable insights to his listeners rather than bragging about his accomplishments.
Here are his seven pearls of leadership wisdom.
1. Find your own doughnut.
Toyoda found joy in a surprising place. As he said, "When I was a student here, I found joy in doughnuts! American doughnuts were a joyful, astonishing discovery. I want to encourage all of you to find your own doughnut."
If you want to lead other people well, you ought to take joy in your pursuits. Joy unleashes creativity and unlocks peoples' energy far more effectively than fear.
2. Don't screw it up.
As a leader, you have an opportunity to make the world a better place. But there is a danger -- especially if you're the descendant of a company founder -- to have mixed feelings about your leadership position. After all, some scions might chafe against taking orders from a parent or question whether they really deserve their position.
Toyoda suggests that you ought to be completely committed to leading others. Here's my own two cents: If you feel too much internal conflict to be effective, you ought to get out.
3. Don't take it for granted.
Some of my students from family businesses act as though they're set for life after graduation -- and they don't take full advantage of the learning opportunity.
But, judging by his career, Toyoda rose to the top job through accomplishments that proved he had the mettle to lead the organization. If you're taking leadership for granted, replace yourself with someone like Toyoda who -- it seems to me -- cherishes the opportunity.
4. Try new things, even if you're old.
A big company often prefers to preserve what has worked in the past -- even though it knows the future is in something new.
In recounting the history of Toyota, it's clear that Toyoda sees the value in resisting such complacency. As he said, "How do you take the risk of making fabric one day, and cars the next? Even I can't predict what kind of car we will be driving 20 years from now, but my time at Babson taught me to embrace change rather than run from it, and I urge all of you to do the same."
5. Do the right thing, because if you do, the money will follow.
Automakers make a consumer product on which peoples' lives depend. If the products prove defective, the company has a chance to prove whether it will do what's right for consumers.
6. Decide what you stand for.
I strongly agree with Toyoda's advice on the importance of acting in accordance with your values. How so? As I write in my book Value Leadership, leaders ought to make life better for employees, customers, and communities by encouraging employees to embody seven specific values while at work.
7. Don't worry about being cool--be warm.
To me, Toyoda's tip suggests that being cool is about making yourself feel better, while being warm is about listening to other people and making their lives better. Being warm is essential to being an effective leader.
Take Toyoda's seven tips and you can be a more effective leader.