Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Leading by Example is a Trait of a True Lean Leader

One of the most important qualities of a good leader is for you to lead by example, to be a role model, to be the kind of person that everyone else looks up to and wants to be like. One of the characteristics of leaders is that they carry themselves at all times, even when no one is watching, as if everyone was watching.

For an organization to grow, the people within it also must grow. The way for leaders to bring a team to a higher standard is by committing to a greater challenge themselves. The abilities, talents and characteristics of leaders provide a larger foundation on which those around them can grow, both as individuals and as a group. By being the example of greater discipline and greater drive, a leader encourages those who follow him to adopt a higher standard as well.

Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

All managers are teachers, and their actions determine company capability. Whether consciously or not, with their everyday words and actions all managers are teaching their people a mindset and approach.

Leaders must lead with their actions as well as their words. Leaders can effectively translate intention into reality by acting on the concepts and messages they teach and the things they say to those around them. Leadership is the act of setting the right example for those who follow. Leadership is about actively demonstrating your belief, not just talking about it. People who say one thing but do another eventually lose credibility.

Leaders are not afraid to jump into the ‘trenches’ and do some of the work themselves. They also encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do. Being a hands on manager will inspire and motivate the team to achieve greater things.

The level of involvement in Lean by the management team often shapes the Lean implementation and those who may lead it. In my experience the less knowledgeable the management about REAL Lean (Bob Emiliani’s term) the more they think of it as a set of tools the more they want you to just do it. These are the managers that are usually hands-off with Lean and want to see the short term gains to demonstrate they are improving the process. They are focused on the results and outcomes and not the means by which we achieve them. This task oriented approach to management unfortunately is only sustainable while the doer is doing.

When you “walk the talk,” your behavior becomes a catalyst for people’s trust and faith in you. And it also emphasizes what you stand for. Leading by example shows people exactly what you expect and gives them living proof that it can be done. On a deeper level, leading by example and being as good as your words builds trust. It’s a sign that you take what you say seriously so they can, too.

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