Toto Widjojo : Hitting the right business note through leading by example

BUILDING a creative business and leading its creative people requires a unique brand of leadership. On one hand, a leader has to strive to develop the business by producing something that is liked by the market.

On the other hand, he or she has to lead creative personnel in a way that encourages the development of new ideas. And it also has to be acknowledged that creative people can be difficult to manage. So what is the right method for handling this mix of concerns? Leading by example is the key, according to Sony Music Entertainment Indonesia’s Managing Director Toto Widjojo.

“In running this company I always do my best to lead by example. When we focus on advancing the company and being responsible to the company, we will surely get support from the employees, but if we give bad examples, they will automatically become bad or they may leave the company,” explained Toto.

Sony Music is one of the largest recording companies in Indonesia, but Toto, 47, said that the achievement was the result of the hard work of the entire team. “I believe in teamwork. A leader is not a perfect human being. So each success is due to the hard work of the entire team. I only direct or give guidance,” he said.

For his team to produce creative works, Toto gives his employees free rein to express their ideas. “Actually there are no bad ideas, because labeling one as such kills creativity. I always encourage my staff to come up with new and creative ideas. When I have to decide on which idea to use, I have to make that decision and work together with the team to implement it. I am responsible for the success or failure of my decision.”

He said that arguments were a natural part of brainstorming sessions, citing the differing opinions when Sony Music wanted to form a boy band. “Some did not agree, while others agreed only conditionally. Finally, we decided to make a boy band that could not only look good, but also sing and dance,” said the graduate of Atma Jaya Catholic University and NUS Stanford. “Arguments are necessary and only natural in a creative business, but once a decision has been made, everyone should agree to implement the idea.”

He said that in the creative industry, especially in the music business, there were actually no right or wrong decisions, or strictly defined black-or-white areas, because it was not a scientific discipline. “The success of a decision is measured by market forces. It is possible that our joint decision is not liked by the market. But thank God, most of our decisions are successful in the market.”

Team player
Toto started his career as director of finance and administration at the company, and was subsequently appointed managing director in 2005. Despite his top position, he says he still thinks of himself as part of the team. He treats his staff as his friends and does not want to be feared as their boss. He realizes that everyone is equal, so he works together with them.

But he admits he is not a perfect leader, which is why he feels it is important to continue learning about self-development through books as well as by participating in seminars, CEO discussions and by sharing experiences with friends. “When I reach a dead end, I also ask my friends for their opinions. I have also learned a lot from a number of great leaders, and one of them is Teddy Rahmat,” he said of the corporate executive. “He is very successful, but also simple. I feel he is a good example of a good leader.”

He confesses to workaholic tendencies, but weekends are for his family. “On weekdays I leave home very early and return quite late. That’s why I try to spend quality time with my family over the weekend.”

Currently, Toto is working with artists and other producers to focus on promoting Indonesia’s music industry in places like the United States and Europe through full track downloads. He expects the government to close down illegal downloads and to regulate piracy. “The creative industry, especially the music business, has a huge potential for exports to neighboring countries. Its prospects would improve further if the government can help close down all illegal download websites,” said Toto hopefully. (Tedy Matondang)

The Jakarta Post, June 09, 2012


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