16 keys for being a lean leader

Adopting lean tools is not enough to make lean stick. It is very much about changing the way you define leadership as well.


A lean leader defines the goals and strategy for change:

  • The Lean leader clear about Lean being an open ended journey. Lean is a means to an end. So you use lean to reach new goals all the time
  • Sets clear goals that stretch the organization
  • Helps to align the initiatives both horizontally and vertically to reduce waste in the organization
  • Makes sure the company culture helps employees reach the goals and does not hinder them
  • Makes sure that expected behavior is reinforced and puts in place tools to help make the change stick
  • Does not forget to celebrate success
Great leadership is a lot of different things

A lean leader is a sensei for his people:

  • Respects his employees
  •  Knows that he doesn't have all the answers and wants to help his employees to finds the answers for themselves
  • Coaches employees to solve problems at the root cause
  • Recognizes strengths as well as weaknesses and helps employees to build on them
  • Gives and asks feedback regularly
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A lean leader is focused on processes, improvement and customer value:

  • Is always focused on value for the customer
  • Has a kaizen mindset
  • Puts great emphasis on value streams being simple both for the customers and employees
  • Places great value on experimentation and learning from failure
  • Goes to the gemba to observe the work being done as a regular part of his job


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