35 Years Worth of Essential Leadership Lessons

By Peter Lawson, Global Manufacturing & Quality Director, RMA Automotive


Looking back over my 35 years in leadership roles, some of the greatest lessons I’ve picked up did not come easy. Even today, having been with RMA Group for the past four years as a Global Technical Director, I’m still continually picking up new lessons.

Each lesson I learned has progressively evolved my leadership style and capability. Here are a series of the most important ones I’ve digested along the way.

1. Be Ready To Be The Decision-Maker

As a leader, the shadow that you cast is worth 10 times the words that you speak. Leaders are constantly measured by the decisions they make and by their behaviors. You must be seen to always walk the talk and stay true to your principles.

You may notice that the more difficult decisions are initially questioned.  But over time, even the toughest decisions are understood and accepted as the results roll in.

As a decision maker, you cannot be distracted by emotion. Focus on the facts and push back when people share emotional perspectives. Feel comfortable to tell people to ˜please leave emotions and emotionally charged comments at the door, I am only interested in the facts’. This makes decision making much simpler.

2. You Must Be a Team Player

This begins by treating people with respect, always. Remember that a champion team will defeat a team of champions every time.  Leverage the power of your team and push back where individuals struggle to play the team game.

An excellent example of this in RMA Automotive is when all departments pulled together to deliver the Indonesia Toyota Land Cruiser program in mid-April. Every division, from Program Management to Product Development, Purchasing, Logistics, Manufacturing Engineering, Warehouse and Production worked extended hours  as a team  to deliver a seemingly unachievable delivery target.

3. Learn From Others. More Importantly, Listen

Nobody has the answers to everything, so don’t expect that of yourself. Seek input from knowledgeable, experienced colleagues. Great leaders don’t have all the answers in their heads. Rather, their strength is in motivating the best answers from whatever source is available.

Do not be afraid to rely on your team: the answer usually lies within them. I frequently bring together key personnel to discuss and derive a competitive solution.

Observe different leaders and decide what aspects of their leadership style would add value to your personal leadership. Similarly, acknowledge the negative leadership characteristics observed and consciously avoid falling into them.

Many leading companies hold leadership building courses for their employees. At RMA, our LDP and Management 101 courses are designed to develop leadership skills and awareness – this is a great opportunity to learn from others within the company.

4.  Have a Workflow Process

Don’t try to ˜boil the ocean’. Break down complex situations into logical chunks you can absorb and respond to. A perfect example of this is when the RMA Automotive Leadership team recently discussed how to improve our overall Order-To-Delivery process. This is incredibly complex with many contributing influences. We agreed to chunk the approach into 13 digestible elements. Each element has a champion and action plan designed to leverage the overall process.

It’s also important to remember that something gone wrong is an opportunity for improvement. Always review and address lessons learned where things have not gone as planned.

At RMA Automotive, each major program is now reviewed for lessons learned. Most recently, we reviewed learnings from the Indonesia Toyota LC program and identified specific actions to be taken to improve our output on future projects.

5. Self-Care is Key for Success

A healthy, fit body supports a sharp, responsive mind and positive attitude. My recipe for personal well-being is Relaxation, Exercise, Attitude, Diet (READ). This helps me maintain a balanced perspective during challenging times.

Understand that there is good stress and there is bad stress. From this, you can develop strategies that work for you to avoid bad stress. Sort the emotion from the facts of the situation and focus your energy on seeking a solution.

Leadership is a life-long journey of continuous personal development and growth. Nothing is impossible, the question is whether it’s the right move.