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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba.

When we think of a traditional leader with adjectives like charismatic, decisive, visionary, inspiring, tough, bold, and transformational.  This is a western interpretation of the leader as the individual who changes the game, turns the company around, makes the tough decisions, and gets results, results, results.  When we see results, and especially when we see a turnaround in the performance of a company, it is the CEO who gets interviewed and talked about.  It is understandable that Western leaders have big egos since they are in charge, they are responsible for the results, and they must to the main thinking for the company.  If you want a very different view you do not have to read lean books, you can look at Good To Great by Jim Collins.  He describes “level 5” leaders, who run the most successful American companies over long periods of time, as humble, egoless, focused on the company as a whole, passionate about customers and the business,  constantly studying the business internally and externally, obsessed with excellence, and their highest priority is building successors who in their blood have the DNA of the culture and are just as passionate about the business.

Akio Toyoda, in the foreword to our book:  The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, wrote:  “We are all growing and learning, and we all need teachers and coaches to help guide.  We say at Toyota that every leader is a teacher developing the next generation of leaders. This is their most important job.”  Thinking of a leader as a teacher and coach, as managing from the gemba, believing deeply that people are the only appreciating assets of the company, believing in the value of intentionally creating a common culture and being a role model of that culture, and that the adaptiveness of the business to meet the challenges of the environment comes from how people are developed all the way down to the worker is quite different than the leader as the captain of the ship steering it cleverly through brilliant personal insights.

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