"I've learned that leadership is taking other people where they can't take themselves. I've learned that it is not about you, it's about the person you are leading." What a great quote! It came from Michigan State University quarterback Kirk Cousins.
One of the interesting aspects of it is that Cousins is not the coach – he is a 21 or so year old kid, who accepts responsibility for leadership. It leads me to think that all of us – me especially - are perhaps a bit too quick to assume the CEO is solely responsible for leadership, and all too quick to criticize when the top guy (or gal) doesn't come through.
If you are reading this, you are most likely in middle management at some manufacturing company, or like me a consultant. Perhaps you are a lean coordinator or an engineer of some sore. The Evolving Excellence demographic includes a fair share of company Presidents and CEO's but most readers are at a lower level in the organization – like Cousins, playing a key role but not the person at the top where the buck stops.
By Cousins' definition of leadership, however, taking people where they cannot take themselves, leadership is not the exclusive role of the CEO. All of you – all of us – are in some degree in a position to take people whaere they cannot take themselves.
Everyone is familiar with the old Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference. Rather than complain about the lack of lean leadership from the executive suite, we ought to accept the fact that we do not control the folks above us, and focus on the things we do influence.
I like Cousins' philosophy. It reminds me that the purpose of the blog, and the purpose of every seminar I conduct, and every one day assessment I perform is to use my knowledge to take people in some small way where they cannot take themselves. And it reminds me that it is not about me – it is about them. The same thing is true when you lead kaizen events or work on incremental improvements in your company. Your knowledge of lean burdens you with the responsibility of leadership – even if it is only the responsibility for taking a small handful of people where they cannot take themselves.
The real power behind this kid's way of thinking is that lean leadership doesn't mean the boss ought to do things differently, it means everyone has to be a leader and go about doing things differently - from the top of the organization to the bottom – and to be a leader of the "it's not about me, it's about them" sort.