Far too many managers get caught up in the rank and prestige, and therefore never make the leap from manager to leader. One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to maximize the efficiency of the value-add portion of their operation… the "Gemba"… the manufacturing floor, the development engineers, the public servants, etc. To effectively execute that responsibility they need to clearly understand the processes used within their organizations.
In The Gemba Walk, Bodek describes the power and learning opportunity of simply walking through your organization and operation every day, listening and asking questions.
"I could see the real power in this walk; it was a learning experience for the manager to be educated by his supervisor and employees. By selecting a different theme for every walk, he would eventually cover all fo the important aspects of running a plant. By asking questions, he encouraged his employees to understand the importance fo their work. In reality, he was letting them run the plant– his job was to be the reminder, the catalyst, to see that everything was being kept up to the highest possible standard."
Pfeffer’s article discusses companies that actually require "field days" for executives, where they work at all levels of their organizations. At Southwest Airlines, for example, senior executives work as baggage handlers, flight attendandants, and check-in personnel… one day every quarter.
Time in the field, or at the Gemba, leads to both improved managerial empathy and better decisions.