In the 1950s, three U.S. car brands – Ford, GM, and Chrysler – dominated the automobile market, capturing over 80 percent of U.S. demand. But just a few decades later, those three brands accounted for under 50 percent. Why such a drop? Toyota. Toyota had a vision of dominating the car market in the United States and then worldwide. Their strategy? Watch and learn from the best, then do it better.
After making their first sales in the U.S., Toyota realized they couldn’t compete with the low-cost, high-performance vehicles American’s preferred. So, they watched and planned. They knew their target market and knew they needed to develop a car American’s would love at an unbeatable cost. They established performance measures and got to work. In 1966, Toyota released the Corona (yes, you read that right), the Toyota Corona – and the car went viral. After just one year, sales had soared, and they were already the third most imported car brand in the U.S. Since 2006, Toyota has been – on and off – the world’s largest car brand. Simply because they know how to deliver.
Although Toyota clearly succeeded, as have many others, few—if any—have done so without encountering challenges. Sometimes, those challenges are self-inflicted as leaders fail to be specific in their goals and strategies. Other times, challenges arise as companies are unprepared to face roadblocks and end up lacking the necessary resources. Gregory Newell, chairman of the International Commerce Development Corporation, summarizes these challenges by stating that the primary reason U.S. companies struggle in international settings is that they don’t have a defined “mission, vision, and strategy.”
To deliver in a global environment, a company’s leaders must establish a mission that is built upon strong business fundamentals, constantly look for ways to improve overall performance, and unite employees to deliver on their defined goals.
Skills for Delivering
Global leaders need to have strategic vision. Strategic vision is about setting the course for a company to achieve specific goals. Without strategic vision, companies often fail to reach their potential. A leader’s vision grows when they take steps to be as informed as possible on the various problems throughout the company, talk meaningfully and consistently with those closest to the problems, and foster creative solutions by embracing unconventional ideas. Then leaders can set appropriate goals and have a well-defined vision for the future of the company.
Once a vision is established, it’s important that the goals set aren’t too broad, unachievable, or unmeasurable. Poorly defined goals can lead to misunderstandings and disunity throughout the company. However, when leaders focus on the specific and measurable results they want, their goals tend to be more useful and likely to be reached. Being performance oriented doesn’t stop there. To be performance oriented, leaders need to clearly communicate their goals, provide the necessary resources, create appropriate incentives, and measure progress.
Execution & Impact
Even with the proper goals in place and the perfect vision tying everything together, achieving goals can still be challenging. Roadblocks are difficult to anticipate, and the desired result can sometimes be achieved but fail to make the impact necessary for the company to succeed. In order to execute well, leaders must learn to organize their company in a useful manner, unite the company together, and adapt well to change.
Toyota patiently and persistently worked to find a product that consumers wanted. They created a vision, set goals, and found a way to deliver their products. Turning a company into a successful world player takes this sort of specific direction, clear planning, and ability to deliver. Although becoming a strong global company can seem daunting, taking these steps will help leaders make it happen.
To learn more about becoming the visionary and impactful leader every company needs, open the articles below.