Monday, June 18, 2012

What Do Good LEADERS Do?

What's the difference between leaders and managers? I always like to explain that managers strive to maintain the current condition, and leaders strive to take the team somewhere else. Managers maintain, leaders build. Managing is easy. Leading is really hard.

Having said that, exactly what do good leaders do every day? One of my early senseis told me that if MY day is exactly as it is today in the future, I cannot be considered a good lean leader. How can you ask your peers to completely change how they think, what they think about, and not to mention improve THEIR processes without changing yourself. I believe this is one of the primary reasons for the low success rates for "lean journeys". The more YOU as a leader are willing to re-think what you do, the more likely your journey will be successful. People pay close attention to what you DO, not what you SAY.

Of course, my sensei hit the nail right on the head. My day changed completely. One of my biggest influences was the role of Chief Engineer at Toyota. Imagine being one of the most powerful and respected people in your organization, yet you have no power to fire or discipline anyone?! The role of the Chief Engineer can be summarized with two leaders. Who are these leaders? EVERY member of your team should be thought of as a potential leader. Start by assuming that EVERYONE in your company belongs there, and you would not want to live a day without them. This change in thinking (and behavior) alone will begin to improve performance by people you may have "lost hope for". Demonstrate this new-found confidence by working hard to help these people succeed. Remember you don't have to be Vince Lombardi to coach Bart Starr or Paul Hornung. You make the big bucks for developing the players at the "bottom" of your roster.At first, they might wonder what you are up to. Then they might resist. Others may ask you why you are bothering ("he's a lost cause"). But stay with it. Be honest with them, be respectful. Set goals together and MAKE SURE they achieve them.

An organization known for having a good culture demonstrates patience and is very good at working with and developing the bottom of it's roster. Organizations known for a poor culture simply put these players on waivers. I told you leading is hard!! 



  1. Fabulous post Bill. It was a good reminder that when better versions of current performance is envisioned, support and accountability is given, people can and do rise to the challenge. Also, you are spot on with the idea that "people pay attention to what you do, not what you say". Collectively, our culture has largely shifted the meaning of integrity from "My word is my bond" to a "My actions demonstrate my values" mentality.

  2. Thank you Polli for your encouragement. I continue to be so amazed at what great advocate you are for the most important asset of any company. I can't wait to talk to you to see what's up in your life. Best regards and respect my friend,