Leadership Before Lean

Last year a physician leader, mentor and colleague shared this reflection with me: “Leadership Before Lean”. My initial thought was “but of course” followed closely by “wait a minute, we may have a gap in our approach to coaching leaders”.

Historically I have not been explicit regarding key characteristics that are necessary for success in a leading a “management-by-processes operating system” (1). I am thinking that maybe we’ve been taking it for granted that the characteristics are present and practiced at least to some extent. My fear is that we’ve been skipping ahead into the lean genre without first ensuring a solid base of the fundamentals.

If there is any validity to this thinking, then let’s stop and dust off some of those classic leadership books/articles. Looking at my bookshelf, here are a few of mine with worn covers and highlighted pages.

Dr. John Toussaint’s article “A Management, Leadership and Board Road Map to Transforming Care for Patients” (1) calls out several critical characteristics including humility, curiosity and perseverance.

“The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes & Posner, is at the top of my list as the go to book on servant leadership; it speaks to pretty much to all of the necessary characteristics. Their version of perseverance is one of my all-time favorites: “psychological hardiness”.

Or how about John Maxwell’s “21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader”? Short, crisp and irrefutable.

No doubt you have many favorites of your own and I would love to hear what they are and why they are on your list.

In closing, I am thinking that we need to pull these characteristics into the forefront more often as we explore the transformation of both leaders and their organizations. I am looking forward to testing the hypothesis of “Leadership Before Lean” as a key to transformation.