There are 12 behaviors or characteristics that successful quality leaders demonstrate.
- They give priority attention to external and internal customers and their needs. Leaders place themselves in the customers shoes and service their needs from that perspective. They continually evaluate the customers changing requirements.
- They empower, rather than control, subordinates. Leaders have trust and confidence in the performance of their subordinates. They provide the resources, training, and work environment to help subordinates do their jobs. However, the decision to accept responsibility lies with the individual.
- They emphasize improvement rather than maintenance. Leaders use the phrase “If it isn’t perfect, improve it” rather than “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is always room for improvement, even if the improvement is small. Major breakthroughs sometimes happen, but it’s the little ones that keep the continuous process improvement on a positive track.
- They emphasize prevention. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true. It is also true that perfection can be the enemy of creativity. We can’t always wait until we have created the perfect process or product. There must be a balance between preventing problems and developing better, but not perfect, processes.
- They encourage collaboration rather than competition. When functional areas, departments, or work groups are in competition, they may find subtle ways of working against each other or withholding information. Instead, there must be collaboration among and within units.
- They train and coach, rather than direct and supervise. Leaders know that the development of the human resource is a necessity. As coaches, they help their subordinates learn to do a better job.
- They learn from problems. When a problem exists, it is treated as an opportunity rather than something to be minimized or covered up. “What caused it?” and “How can we prevent it in the future?” are the questions quality leaders ask.
- They continually try to improve communications. Leaders continually disseminate information about the TQM effort. They make it evident that TQM is not just a slogan. Communication is two way-ideas will be generated by people when leaders encourage them and act upon them. For example, on the eve of Desert Storm, General Colin Powell solicited enlisted men and women for advice on winning the war. Communication is the glue that holds a TQM organization together.
- They continually demonstrate their commitment to quality. Leaders walk their talk-their actions, rather than their words, communicate their level of commitment. They let the quality statements be their decision-making guide.
- They choose suppliers on the basis of quality, not price. Suppliers are encouraged to participate on project teams and become involved. Leaders know that quality begins with quality materials and the true measure is the life-cycle cost.
- They establish organizational systems to support the quality effort. At the senior management level a quality council is provided, and at the first-line supervisor level, work groups and project teams are organized to improve the process.
- They encourage and recognize team effort. They encourage, provide recognition, and reward individuals and teams. Leaders know that people like to know that their contributions are appreciated and important. This action is one of the leader’s most powerful tools.
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