Lean leadership is a valuable but sometimes elusive quality in managers. Yes, managers and leaders can completely miss having the necessary skills and still maintain their positions. Some develop these skills through experience and education, but still miss that key element that makes them great. Then there are the few that leadership is a natural skill that is simply multiplied through education and experience. The ability to lead is difficult to quantify. However, we do know that if we create the proper environment, provide educational opportunities and expose people to the proper experiences, leaders naturally float to the top. The trick is to identify and nurture those who just have the right stuff. Our military and many highly successful organizations are leadership factories. They understand the dynamics involved in leadership building and have become very adept at identifying potential very early on and nurturing that potential. These organizations create an environment of success for leaders, and the potential then rises.
Building Lean Leadership
There are some key tenets to building success that must occur to develop true leaders. Organizations that create true leaders understand that to survive and prosper we must improve, and to improve we must change. To change though, they require leaders to affect that change. Change is in fact the cornerstone of the lean practitioner, and lean leadership is at the forefront of that energy. If change is occurring in a lean environment, then someone is leading. Simply, successful leadership is exactly what it takes to create successful change. With that in mind, here are five skills lean leadership must possess to be successful:
- Must be Technically Competent – There is no substitute for competence.
- Leadership Presence – Must be present in the organization and go on the Gemba.
- Teaching and Education – They must be able to comfortably teach and actively promote equation at all levels.
- Be a Strong Role Model – Leading by example its crucial. ‘Do as I do’ is much more important than ‘Do as I say.’
- Must Teach Leadership – Leaders have a keen responsibility to grow and develop other leaders.
In a successful organization that inspires and grows leaders, lean leadership is practiced at all levels. It is deeply embedded across the organization and in the lifeblood.
Moving Forward with Lean Leadership
When an organization is practicing Lean principles, then change will occur. How well that change occurs depends entirely on the presence of strong lean leadership. When these leaders possess and practice the five characteristics listed above, change occurs at a much higher rate, with a significant increase in quality. The organization subsequently changes at all levels without tangible disruption.