[In the words of Akio] #07: "Hate to lose"


When it comes to competition, you either win or lose. Himself once an athlete, Akio Toyoda often says that he "hates to lose". What do these words, which demonstrate a passion for always wanting to be at the top of one's game, mean for a company CEO?

In sports, only winners get to ascend to the top of the podium. But the results of any competition are built on the tireless efforts of all who take on the challenge of striving to go higher.

Akio Toyoda calls himself a person who “hates to lose”. This way of phrasing his outlook on life stems from his close relationship with baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro once told Akio that he had a distaste for losing that went beyond “tabezu-girai”, a Japanese expression that means “to not like (a certain food) without even trying it”. He explained that he flat out hates to lose because he has tried and knows the bitter taste of losing.

Taking the helm of Toyota after it had fallen into the red, Akio had first felt doubts casted from the sidelines about his ability to overcome the crisis. Being from the founding family, the pressure was mounting, as he had to make a difference.

Ichiro kind of went through the same thing on the way to greatness in baseball, being told in his youth that he’d never make it in the pros and, further down the road, that Major League Baseball was beyond his reach. But Ichiro’s “hate to lose” determination proved others mistaken and was a natural match for Akio’s personal and professional predicament and spirit.

In the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, what had signs of victory turned into a final-lap drama when Toyota’s machine suddenly slowed down with only three minutes to go. Akio’s post-race comment promised a comeback and underlined the team’s “hate to lose” approach.

“We, Toyota GAZOO Racing, hate to lose. We will fight again not without knowing defeat but with having tasted the true bitterness of losing. We will be back in the World Endurance Championship arena next year to compete in the battle that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

Two years later in 2018, Toyota finally won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and has since chalked up three consecutive wins through 2020.

Akio, having once represented Japan on the national field hockey team when he was a university student, is himself a former athlete. That’s why he casts both a kind and stern eye at athletes who are giving it their all. “I ask all of you to focus on your events from now on and make sure you aim for the top of the podium. Go win!”, he told Toyota athletes who will represent Japan in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, speaking at a pep rally this month. Behind this message was his respect for athletes who take on the challenge of striving to go higher.

Striving to go higher despite knowing the bitterness of defeat and respectfully cheering on those who have trained hard to win are both characteristics of hating to lose. Hating to lose also means valuing not only the results but also the process of taking on challenges, which is exactly what is important in company management. The immense responsibility of being the CEO of Toyota, along with his tireless battle to secure a win for the people who support Toyota and the automotive industry, might make Akio’s “hate to lose” spirit second to none.