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Friday, August 12, 2011

Lean Quote: The Responsibility of a Lean Leader

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." — Max De Pree

This quote, from Max DePree is among my favorite servant leadership quotes. This frames 3 roles every leader must fulfill: the roles of Realist, Praiser and Servant. I would like to extend this line of thinking to that of a Lean Leader specifically.

What are the qualities of a good Lean Leader? This is one of the most contemplated questions when undergoing a Lean thinking transformation since leadership is critical to it’s very success. In my opinion there are at least 10 key responsibilities for a Lean leader:
  1. Learn Lean Thinking
  2. Get out front, be hands on, don’t delegate
  3. Take lots of leaps of faith
  4. Change metrics and set stretch goals
  5. Create an environment where it is ok to fail
  6. Provide air cover for early adopters
  7. Eliminate concrete heads
  8. Have a no layoff policy
  9. Organize around value streams
  10. Change any compensation system that doesn’t support Lean
The next time someone asks you what roles a Lean leader must play, keep this mind. I am sure you have some others to add as well and I encourage you to do so in the comments below.

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  1. #7--Maybe even celebrate failures (or their discovery)

    Know that even though you have described a Lean process/tool/technique multiple times that you still need to do it again.

    Connect the Lean dots, you see them, others may not.

    Coupled with #10-Find ways to recognize the early adopters and publicize the success when applicable.

  2. Hi Tim,

    What an excellent quote from Max de Pree.
    I'm not sure what you mean by concrete heads, are these what I call anchor draggers - those resistant to change?

    Enjoyed your blog as always, many thanks.

  3. Yes, One in the same. Thanks Stephen. Glad you enjoy.