What is Lean Leadership?

Lean leadership is all about process, performance, and people. It all starts at the top. If the leaders of the organization are not on-board, the system will not work. Together they remove obstacles that prevent productivity improvement.

Lean Leaders develop positive relationships with their employees. They know that people are at the heart of their company and invest resources into their development.

Lean leaders pursue perfection; they are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste and delay. They do this by empowering individuals within the organization to make decisions and take risk in their pursuit of perfection.

Leaders ask the “Why” question with all aspects of the operation. “Why are we doing the things we are doing? Why is equipment set up the way it is?” “Why is the process failing at this place?”

Ultimately, Lean Leaders create the environment for the tools of continuous improvement to work effectively and achieve sustainable results.


So, What Does It Take to Be a Lean Leader?


Lean leaders are visionaries. Without a vision, where are you going? They have a vision for what the organization will look like, how teams will be developed, and what the current goals will be. Lean leaders are seeking simplicity in their operation. Having the vision to improve processes and engage everyone in that process is imperative.



Initiative means taking small steps forward, with courage, even in the face of failure. There will be those who have been entrenched in “the way it has always been done” and may resist change. If you consider that most products that were developed more than five years ago are no longer used, it becomes clear that change happens on a regular basis. Driving change takes initiative. Being relentless in forging change is an important aspect of the Lean Leader.



Leaders coach in a way that empowers employees to perform better and take risks. Finding faults are “Gold!” It is not about pointing out the flaws in someone, rather it is helping to change attitudes and behavior for their benefit. Lean Leaders help others to become leaders of themselves.

They do this by being honest with others, being fair in their assessments, and encouraging the pursuit of personal growth. Of course, you cannot be influential if you do not “walk the walk.” If you are going to encourage others to pursue change, even when it is hard, you must be willing to make hard changes also.



Credibility and Respect are crucial to successful leadership. You cannot gain any of these without being authentic. Credibility requires knowing about the subject you are talking about. It also means admitting when you do not know something. Respect is earned simply by respecting others. People can instantly notice when someone is not being authentic. Without authenticity, your leadership will not succeed. You will not have the trust or respect of your employees.



You cannot build trust without being authentic. Linda Oien wrote an article titled “People Quit Their Boss, Not Their Job – 4 Keys to Attracting and Retaining the Best and Brightest.” What it revealed, how you treat others as a leader can have a big influence whether people will stay in a job or leave. It’s not solely about money.

As a leader, if you are not truthful, if you don’t follow through with what you say, If you are not walking the walk; there is a good chance you will lose trust with your followers. It is much easier to maintain trust than it is to try and regain trust.


These are the five traits of a Lean Leader: Visionary, Initiative, Influential, Authenticity, and Trust.

Developing these traits in your organization can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the Lean tools that you are undoubtedly trying to implement.


Lean Leaders Plus is a Lean Leadership Consulting Firm dedicated to helping clients realize their potential as leaders in industry. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation about how we can help your business grow.