Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lean Leadership: Lessons from Abe Lincoln

Jerry Bussell, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, gave a great presentation at the Northeast Shingo Prize Conference on Lean Leadership. Jerry a former vice president of a Fortune 200 company has done extensive research on leadership and is sought after for his insights.

Are you looking for a Lean leadership role model for your organization? Consider Abraham Lincoln, the person that Jerry Bussell turned to for advice as he transformed Medtronic's manufacturing operation into a nationally recognized model of lean manufacturing. President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be a noble and great leader who shaped American history. He is not often looked to as an example of how to, however, be an effective plant manager or corporate executive.

Here are 10 leadership principles starting with P that Abe Lincoln exhibited that set an example for type of leader that managers and executives should exemplify: 

1. Purpose – Answer the question “Why I am doing this?” Without purpose there is not direction.
2. Probity – Demonstrate complete honesty if you want integrity. This is how leaders get people to follow them.
3. People – This is the “Respect for People” element. Listen and show we care. The say Lincoln would go beyond just hearing your pain and actually absorb your pain for you.
4. Preparation – Proper planning saves time. Never stop learning and improving.
5. Persuasion – Show them how through doing. The use of stories to illustrate your point makes it more personal and memorable.
6. Persistence – Never give up; keep going, especially when the road is not so clear.
7. Process Thinking – Put a process in place. It is through this we can improve our current state.
8. Problem Solving – PDCA, objectively study, build strong problem solving skills, and engage everyone everyday in the process.
9. Performance – Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process and the results will come.
10. Possibilities – Take the impossible and make it possible. There is no limit to the possibilities if we open our mind.

In my experience people don’t like to be told what to do. Lead them by asking the right questions. Challenge their thinking and develop them to constantly improve. Lean is a powerful way of thinking. Jerry Bussell believes it is this thinking that can truly change the world. Like Abraham Lincoln be the role model for leadership in your organization by practicing these qualities.




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