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Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

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Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning

Katie Anderson,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The “Toyota Way” is ultimately about learning – and constant innovation and change.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Visionary
  • Concrete Examples


Isao Yoshino’s 40 years of leadership at the Toyota Motor Corporation helped define a specific corporate culture, now understood as the “Toyota Way.” Author Katie Anderson tracks Yoshino’s career as she explains this management philosophy, which includes several well-known, foundational concepts. The first is kaizen, often translated as “continuous improvement,” change and innovation. The second is genchi genbutsu, the concept of basing important decisions on facts from original sources. A third concept is the most crucial idea in Yoshino’s approach to leadership and learning: hansei, critical self-awareness in business and in life.


Begin with a larger dream.

Toyota Motor Corporation leader Isao Yoshino was born in Japan just after the Second World War. He grew up in an extremely insular rural setting. Few foreigners ever came to villages like his, and most of the people he knew had never been to another country. One day, young Yoshino met a kind American soldier who inspired his dream to go to the United States and to see the world beyond Japan’s shores.

Yoshino took two initial steps toward his American dream: learning English and listening to American military radio, but by the time he became a student at Osaka University, his objectives had expanded. He didn’t want to spend time only in the United States. He wanted to experience different cultures all over the world.

After graduation, Yoshino joined Toyota. In a way, this choice was a gamble. He was betting that Toyota would eventually expand overseas, thus allowing him to travel and experience other cultures as part of his work. At the same time, Yoshino developed an additional core goal: To help people evolve. In a word, he wanted to lead.

A career starts with ...

About the Author

Katie Anderson is a Lean practitioner, leadership coach, consultant and professional speaker. Her website is Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn has been awarded the Shingo Award, a prestigious achievement in the field of continuous improvement and operational excellence.

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