Unlocking Success: Rod Tonna-Barthet's Guide to Mastering Leadersip

Published by Gary Ellis on May 21st 2024, 1:01pm

As soon as he left school, Rod Tonna-Barthet’s career was all about moving forward and achieving goals. “I have a learning style which is based on doing.” And so he joined Barclays Bank, embracing the prestige of the banking sector at the time.

Rod spent three years at Barclays which proved to be formative, as he discovered the synergy between work and study, leading him to pursue qualifications from the Institute of Banking and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. However, it was his move to Schroder Leasing, a division of the merchant bank Schroders, that marked a significant shift in his career. Here, he was mentored by a CEO who saw potential in him and guided him through various roles, from sales and marketing to risk management and operations.

By 1998, Tonna-Barthet had ascended to the board as the sales and marketing director, ensuring integrity in what could often be a toxic environment across the sector. After the sale of business to Siemens, Rod’s leadership skills were further honed and he learned to operate within a larger corporate structure.

Reflecting on this trajectory, Tonna-Barthet acknowledges the importance of continuous learning and self-awareness in leadership, stating, “You can’t lead people unless you know how you are perceived.” Now, as President and CEO of KYOCERA UK and Director of KYOCERA Europe, he continues to apply these principles, fostering a culture of integrity and growth within the organisation.

Emotional Intelligence: The Cornerstone of Rod Tonna-Barthet’s Leadership

For Rod, emotional intelligence (EQ) is not just a buzzword, but a cornerstone of effective leadership. “I’ve worked in environments where I’ve had bosses that had very high IQ and very low EQ, and vice versa. That can work, but balance is the goal,” he reflects, emphasising the need for harmony between intellectual and emotional capabilities. Tonna-Barthet’s approach to leadership is deeply rooted in empathy, a trait he believes is essential for fostering a team-based culture, especially in the post-COVID era.

He advocates for clear communication and visibility within the workplace, stating, “I’m a fervent believer of getting people to work together.” While he appreciates the flexibility that remote working offers, he also understands the importance of in-person interactions for a cohesive team dynamic. “People need to know where they stand,” he asserts.

In this regard, Rod is concerned about the trend towards remote work creating “individual personal silos,” which can fragment customer service and impede the flow of communication. He advocates for a more integrated approach, where team members actively engage with each other to deliver seamless customer experiences.

Visibility and accessibility are key to Tonna-Barthet’s leadership style. He spends a significant portion of his time “wandering the floor,” engaging with employees and addressing their concerns. This hands-on approach allows him to identify and resolve issues promptly, ensuring that the team functions cohesively.

Tonna-Barthet’s philosophy is simple yet profound: “In an organisation, make sure you are clear about what you want your culture to be and then live it, exemplify it.” This clarity, he believes, prevents friction and aligns the team with the company’s values.

Evolving as a Leader

Rod’s tenure at KYOCERA has been marked by significant personal and professional growth. Reflecting on his journey and what it means to work for a Japanese company, he shares, “I’ve grown massively in terms of learning and what it’s like to operate in a Japanese environment.” This cultural adaptation has been a “massive continual engagement,” where cultural intelligence has grown. “I’ve found that I’ve been really infused about the learning opportunity,” he says.

As he has matured, his motivations have shifted, and he recognises the importance of considering personal drivers in leadership. “At various stages of life, you’re doing and trying to achieve different things for different reasons,” he notes, highlighting the evolution of his goals from being a young director to a seasoned CEO.

Alongside these aspects, Rod’s commitment to workplace equality and mental health reflects his deep understanding of the interplay between personal and professional life. He advocates for a workplace that supports diversity and provides resources for mental well-being, recognising that challenges outside of work can impact performance.

Rod has two key drivers. “every day is a school day,” encapsulates his belief in continuous learning and growth for himself and his organisation. The Kyocera philosophy management principle #12 states to “always be cheerful and positive. Hold great dreams and hopes in the pureness of your heart,” drives Rod’s naturally optimistic outlook on life.

It’s no surprise then that Rod champions a culture of teamwork and collaboration. He firmly believes that “you win and lose as a team,” highlighting the collective effort over individual accolades.

Tonna-Barthet’s vision for KYOCERA is a workplace where collaboration and direct communication are the norms, and every team member contributes to the company’s success. As such, his leadership demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a culture where teamwork and customer focus are at the heart of the company’s operations.

A Heartfelt Legacy

Rod will soon be celebrating 40 years in the professional world, and it is only appropriate to discuss his proudest achievements and the legacy he hopes to leave behind. “My biggest achievement,” he asserts, “is creating the team that we’ve here today.” His contentment in navigating businesses through tumultuous times, such as the .com bubble and the credit crunch, is eclipsed only by his leadership during COVID-19, where he felt “an immense responsibility for a family of nearly 500 people.”

Tonna-Barthet’s approach to leadership is characterised by a profound sense of trust and accessibility, fostering a culture where even a “photocopier engineer will walk past my office and say hello.” In his words, “A business without trust amongst its members really can’t survive, let alone thrive,” a principle that has guided his leadership and will continue to influence KYOCERA.

Moreover, he is passionate about KYOCERA’s social contribution, striving to “leave the place a better world.” From energy-efficient production devices to supporting local biodiversity with beehives on the company’s roof, his commitment to social responsibility speaks for itself.

As for his personal legacy, Rod hopes to leave a business that continues to flourish and a leadership team capable of seamless transition. Yet, it’s his family—his children and grandchild—that he considers his true legacy, hoping to set them on the right trajectory for success. 

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
May 21st 2024, 1:01pm

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