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Seven Requirements for Leadership

Eternal truths for today's aspiring leaders

While cleaning out an old file from my days serving on the advisory board at the Tauber Manufacturing Institute, University of Michigan, I found some notes I’d used to discuss with the students the responsibilities of leaders.

The message is as true today at it was then for today’s aspiring leaders. Here are the main points we discussed.

Leadership requires:

  • A strong work ethic. We can’t expect more from our people than we are willing to do ourselves.
  • An attitude that we will do whatever it takes to get the job done. This communicates our high expectations and our pledge to the performance metrics we’ve committed to. (This, of course, requires no moral, ethical or illegal behaviors!)
  • A “can do” attitude to challenge, and ultimately demonstrate a high energy level to smash, long-standing paradigms in the business. As Joel Barker says: Those who say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of the people who are already doing it!
  • A keen sense of urgency, a passion to run to the problems and a dedication to use good process, not heroics, to eliminate the root cause of problems.
  • The discipline to work with a sense of priority. Think in Pareto (80-20 rule) terms to deal with the most significant few issues, i.e., the ones that have real impact/leverage to improve the business for customers, shareholders, employees.
  • A sound time management system for daily use. Time is the only resource we all have the same amount of: 24 hours in a day. How effectively we use this scarce resource has a huge impact on our success or failure as a leader.
  • The ability to lead by example. Be the model for the skills development necessary to change how people think, work and behave. Educate, train, mentor, communicate, develop your people.

“Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage.” -- Henry Ford

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” -- Albert Schweitzer     

Editor's Note: We need your questions for Larry Fast's Ask the Expert: Lean Leadership series. Simply submit your question here. 

Larry Fast is founder and president of Pathways to Manufacturing Excellence and a veteran of 35 years in the wire and cable industry. He is the author of The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence, A Lean Leader's Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence, 2nd. Edition.

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