Friday, April 23, 2021

Lean Quote: True Mark of a Leader is the Willingness to Stick With a Bold Course of Action

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 true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you're not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.  —  Bill Taylor, from article "Do You Pass the Leadership Test?"

Leadership is not some manager sitting in his office presuming that he knows it all, and “all of it” can be expressed in a spreadsheet that he can receive on his PC and then, from the comfort, quietude and solitude of his office analyze this information and make a cold, calculated decision that will drive his business to prosperity.

This is such a perverse model of management and leadership that I struggle to find words to describe it. The best I can come up with is arrogant management.

There is a better leadership model; the Japanese have been using it for 65 years -- lean leadership. It has six basic qualities, which are:

Leaders as superior observers: They go to the action -- they call it the gemba -- to observe not only the machines and the products but also to spend significant time with the employees. They also are in contact with their customers. A much overlooked leadership skill they have in abundance is the ability to be an empathetic listener.

Leaders as learners: They do not assume they know it all. Rather, they go to the floor to learn. They are in lifelong learning mode.

Leaders as initiators: They plan, they articulate and sell their plans, and they act on their plans. They are not risk averse. They are not cavalier.

Leaders as teachers: They are lifelong teachers. When something goes wrong, their first thought is not “Who fouled up?” but “Why did if fail?” and “How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?”

Leaders as role models: They walk the talk. There is no substitute for this. NONE.

Leaders as supporters: They recognize they mainly get work done through others, so they have mastered the skills of servant leadership.

Lean leadership principles aren’t new. They are the qualities that have always distinguished a great leader from an average one. The key to lean leadership is institutionalizing these principles in the everyday culture of the business, and embedding them through repeatable behaviors that demonstrate expectations to the wider organization and encourage exceptional performance.


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