In a recent conversation with Andrew Kirby, CEO of Toyota South Africa, I asked him about how his thinking has evolved over his adult life, from his teenage years to the present day. Andrew has been with Toyota for over 30 years, serving in various roles across different regions, including the United States and Japan. He shared his insights on how his experiences have shaped his thinking and leadership approach.
Early Phases of Career and Life
Andrew started his career in the automotive industry in his late 20s after getting married and having children. He began formulating ideas around management and working with people, which he later developed while working in different regions.
Cross-Cultural Learnings in America
Andrew had the opportunity to live and work in America for three years, which he describes as a significant influence on him. Initially, he struggled to understand the language and found the industry vastly different from what he was used to. However, the experience helped him to learn how to work cross-culturally, with divergent views and ways of thinking.
Leadership Role in Toyota South Africa
When Andrew entered his 40s, he took over as the Head of Sales and Marketing for Toyota South Africa. This significant role required him to adjust and learn how to work in a different culture..
Experience in Japan and Evolving Thinking
Andrew later moved to Japan, where he took an executive role and lived and worked there for several years. This experience helped him formulate much of his thinking around weaving things together and finding ways to integrate divergent teams. He also began to think more about culture and how it affects decision-making. Andrew notes that his thinking evolved from focusing on the challenges for the next month to thinking about the changes for the next 10 to 15 years.
Advice to Teenage Self
When I asked Andrew what advice he would give to his teenage self, he said he would tell himself to be more adventurous and less worried about the future. He advises the upcoming generation to take the time to enjoy the present and the people around them rather than always striving for the next big thing.
In conclusion, Andrew’s experiences in different regions and roles have significantly impacted his thinking and leadership approach. He has learned how to work cross-culturally and integrate divergent teams whilst thinking long-term. His advice to his teenage self reminds us to enjoy the present and not be too worried about the future.