Getting the most out of a team is not simply about telling people what do. A true leader inspires people to come together, take ownership of their work, and adopt the organization’s goals as their own.
Peter Lawson, Global Technical Director for RMA Automotive, embodies this philosophy. He developed his approach to leadership throughout an outstanding 35-year career with Ford Motor Company. Since 2014, these same principles have characterized his work with RMA.
“Management involves telling people what you want them to do, and then they go and do it,” Lawson said. “That’s very different from them deciding on their own to follow you as a leader.”
A big part of leadership, he explained, is learning how to approach and speak to people so that the message actually gets across. “It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t personally have the right answer to everything. What matters is being able to get to the right answer through your team and then to enable the team to deliver what’s required.”
Leadership through a lifetime of learning
From 1978 to 2008, Lawson held various manufacturing roles for Ford in both Australia and the United States. In 70s and early-mid 80s days, he said, managers mostly reacted to problems. They rarely planned ahead effectively. This was commonplace across industry during those times.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the business started to take a more far-sighted approach. Its philosophy shifted from a focus on management to a focus on leadership. Instead of running from crisis to crisis, managing specific problems as they occurred, effective leaders inspired their employees to take ownership of their work and to think and behave proactively. In turn, these employees produced much more effectively and at higher quality. Moreover, by sharing the same vision and goals, they also worked more cohesively as a team, thus output was leveraged by the power of synergy.
As he moved up the ranks throughout these years, Lawson made sure to carefully observe the many managers he came across. He kept copious notes about the different management traits he wanted to avoid, as well as those he sought to emulate.
His careful study of leadership qualities served Lawson well throughout his career with Ford. From 2000 to 2002, he took on the role of Ford Production System Director, leading Ford’s global implementation of lean manufacturing. From 2002 to 2004, he managed Ford’s assembly plant in Chicago, where he oversaw the launch of the all-new Taurus.
These experiences led to even greater challenges and opportunities – giving Lawson plenty of chances to expand and refine his leadership philosophy. Yet there was more to come. From 2005 to 2008, he served as Ford Australia’s Manufacturing Vice President leading up to the launch of the Orion Falcon. And finally, from 2008 to 2013, he was the Operations Vice President for Ford South Africa, where in partnership with an outstanding team of Ford leaders, he played an instrumental role in the launch of the T6 Ranger into South Africa.
Joining RMA and the years ahead
Lawson retired from Ford after 35 years of service and was soon approached by a former Ford colleague about opportunities to join an exciting team at RMA. He subsequently joined RMA Group as South Africa Country Manager in 2014. From there, he moved to Thailand to become the Global Technical Director for RMA Automotive – the position he holds to this day, although with expended responsibilities. Even after decades of hard work in the automotive field, he remains as energized as ever to put his team in the best position for success.
RMA’s business is growing rapidly, and Lawson wants to make sure everyone is prepared for each new challenge as it comes. To that end, he continues to encourage and inspire his team as they work together towards each objective. His focus, as always, is on maintaining motivation, efficiency, and teamwork across the RMA Automotive operations. As Lawson says, “A champion team will defeat a team of champions every time.”