In general I agree with Bill’s perception of books and articles that try to analyze and stratify leadership by any number of criteria. As he puts it, leadership has been organized into “4 E’s, 5 Personalities, 6 Priorities, 7 Zones, 8 Keys, 9 Lessons, 10 Common Sense Lessons (apparently the 9 Lessons defy common sense), 21 Principles, 50 Basic Laws, 124 Actions and 180 Ways – each a separate tome.” There’s probably even a book on the 10 ways to be an author of leadership books.
I remembered this yet again last weekend when I read an article in the May issue of Fast Company on the supposed categories of alpha leaders… the “commander” (Jack Welch), the “visionary” (Richard Branson), the “strategist” (Michael Eisner), and the “executor” (Sam Walton). All had good sides and “dark sides”… so what was the point? No one size fits all. And the article ended with the supposed very insightful comment of “good leaders should be tough but nice”. I’m sure it took a whole bunch of studies and years of statistical analysis to figure that out.
But I may need to make one exception. A couple months ago I went to a cheap business seminar put on by a local community college where Terrence Deal was the featured speaker. Dr. Deal is the author of best-selling Leading With Soul. Anyone that gives a leadership talk in flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt while sucking on a lollipop gets my vote, and like many of us on the California central coast he makes wine on the side so he can’t be all bad. He knows you can’t take life, or leadership, too seriously. A good pinot has that affect on people.
Dr. Deal’s new book is The Wizard and the Warrior, which was also the subject of his talk. He proposes that truly effective leaders must be wizards – able to leverage imagination and creativity to generate passion, and warriors – able to mobilize strength and courage to fight as necessary to fulfill a mission.
This immediately struck me as being the two critical components of someone who is leading a lean enterprise transformation. A real transformation is hard. Damn hard. The person leading it may have in-depth knowledge of all the tools, they may even understand the accounting aspects, and if they’re really lucky they may understand the difference between looking lean and being lean. But it takes more to change the direction of the ship.
The leader must show the organization a vision of the future. A future with miniscule cycle times, almost no inventory, incredible customer service, and massive employee involvement. Maybe even a future with the MRP system turned off (horrors!). This future is often so dissimilar and even counterintuitive that it is difficult to visualize let alone accept. It almost seems like it would require magic… from a wizard. But by demonstrating day in and day out the power and magic of lean, the leader can begin to create passion and excitement, thereby getting the organization closer to the tipping point after which improvement really accelerates.
Executing a real lean transformation is hard and takes time. In the short term the results are often negative. The leader must be a warrior to have the courage to see it through and to support projects that at first glance don’t make sense and may generate negative financial results. This is especially difficult in public companies that have shareholders focused on short term results.
As a final note, the book is simply an enjoyable read for those of us that like stories of the real world. Dr. Deal profiles a wide variety of leaders who had the guts to do the right thing, to create change, and to lead with passion. It should be required reading for some people in Detroit.
Now if he’d only help me make better wine…