You may very well know that leadership is vital to any organization. But what is meant by a “lead leader” and what makes it different from a regular leader? Lean leadership is a critical – yet often neglected — element in business improvement and management. The lean leader is one who is committed to thriving in an atmosphere which fosters teamwork and encourages all members to become a part of the solution. So, let’s go over the key traits of being a lean leader: 1. They Own the Journey “Lean” should be looked at as a journey, not a flash in the pan, not a quick fix, not a set-it-and-forget-it ideation. It’s a lot more than simply an operational tactic; indeed, it’s an integral part of your overall business strategy. Lean leaders will be long-term thinkers, built on a patient and a sustainable mindset. In a nutshell, they’re not mere passengers on a trip; they take ownership of the journey. 2. They are Superior Observers Lean leaders observe not just the machines and products but also dedicate themselves to spending a lot of time with the employees of their organization. The Japanese call it the gemba, and it translates to “workplace,” or even more practically, “where value is created.” Lean leaders spend less time in the office and conference room and more time at the real touch points that impact the customers and employees. Only then can they really understand the situation at hand so they can put effective actions into motion to improve performance. Because they spend a lot of meaningful time engaging with customers, clients and contacts, they employ an oft–overlooked leadership skill: the ability to be an empathetic listener. 3. They’re Not Know-it-Alls Lean leaders know they’re still learning, no matter how high up the ladder they climb. Rather than assuming they know it all, they head down to the floor to continue learning, adopting a “lifelong learning” mindset, points out Industry Week. 4. They are Lifelong Teachers Just as they are lifelong learners, they are also lifelong teachers. When something goes south, their initial thought is not “Who screwed this up?” but rather “Why did this fail?” and “How can I turn this into a teaching opportunity?” This a core principle of lean consulting. 5. They are Lifelong Teachers Just as they are lifelong learners, they are also lifelong teachers. When something goes south, their initial thought is not “Who screwed this up?” but rather “Why did this fail?” and “How can I turn this into a teaching opportunity?” This a core principle of lean consulting. 6. They are Role Models There simply is no substitute for this. Lean leaders don’t talk the talk – they walk the walk, and then walk a little further. Related to this is a focus on “servant leadership,” whereby they recognize the true value in getting meaningful work done through others. This is achieved not through arrogance and superiority, but with a genuine attitude and high integrity. 7. They Have an Unflagging Pursuit of Perfection This trait is at the core of lean leadership. Such a leader is never content with the status quo. There will always be work to do, improvements to strive for. “Good enough is never enough” – this is a lean leader’s mantra. This often comes with an insatiable curiosity, the need to explore all possibilities and alternatives. 8. They are Champions of Simplicity Turns out, most organizational processes and structures are far too complex, and the allure of efficiencies through complicated IT systems will often make matters worse. The lean leader strives to simplify every process, and over time develops a keen eye for finding waste. An accompanying leadership behavior to that is knowing how to live modestly. That means that in their own personal lives, they make it a point to not engage in wasteful endeavors, driving out waste and reducing excessive living habits. This is truly leading by example, lean leadership-style. Contact Incito Consulting Group Need more insight into how you can hone key leadership behaviors in your lean organization? Just contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online. Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation. About how Incito can help transform your business and tackle your most important strategic challenges.