The Most Important Lean Skills Every Leader Should Have

Being a leader goes beyond finding an idea and putting together the team that brings it to life successfully. Successful leaders are sources of inspiration for those around them, they challenge their people to be a better version of themselves and understand them individually in order to help them address their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths, always with the goals of the organization in mind and a plan to achieve those goals.

The concept of “lean” when it comes to an organization, means maximizing the value offered to customers while at the same time removing anything that is part of the processes that takes away from such value or simply it adds no benefit to what the organization offers to its clients. Anything that doesn’t add value is considered waste and the purpose of lean production or services is to remove waste in whichever form it presents itself. People wrongly believe that lean principles only apply to manufacturing and nothing could be further from the truth. Lean can easily apply to any type of business that deals with services or products and nearly to every single process inside an organization.

Here in David Kiger’s Blog, we have talked about Six Sigma and lean implementation before and how it can work with different company sizes or how it can be executed in a variety of ways. In today’s article, we want to take a look at the skills a leader should have when it comes to lean implementation and how they can be applied to maintaining a lean organizational culture.

Technical Knowledge

Successful leaders are known for being aware of everything that goes on in their organization. One of the reasons why they can do this is because they have ample technical knowledge that involves methods, processes, procedures or techniques employed inside the organization. A supervisor doesn’t necessarily have to be the most skilled person behind a specific position, especially because leaders sometimes can come from other backgrounds and may not have the time of experience to be particularly adept at every technical aspect of the organization. However, they must have some technical knowledge and understand what the company does and how it gets it done. This is important not only to be able to advise and provide support to their team but also to apply lean implementation properly to the different processes and procedures.

Understanding of Job Roles

The human resources side of each role is something that a good supervisor must understand thoroughly in order to find ways to deliver improvements to currents proceedings. Policies and rules of the organization are sometimes the reason why waste is present, so understanding this aspect is absolutely necessary in order to efficiently assess the possible waste that may be generated by those rules. Sometimes is not about the technical side or the practical aspect of the supply chain, but instead, the waste may come from the way things are being done and regulated by internal company procedures.    

Lean Skills

It is obvious to expect a lean leader to have a very strong understanding of things like six sigma, lean implementation, and the 5S just to name a few. The 5s, for example, is a great way to organize work areas, this can go anywhere from assembly lines to any type of work station by Sorting, Setting in order, Shining (cleaning the work area), Standardizing and Sustaining. In order to provide the organization with the best tools to implement a lean work environment, a leader must understand and be proficient in the use of the many tools available for lean implementation.

Image courtesy of sparkleice at


It doesn’t matter how much you know about the technical aspect, the organizational procedures or the many lean tools available; none of those things matter if a supervisor doesn’t have the leadership skills necessary to implement changes, to train the team and to help maintain the changes the implementation of lean strategies bring about. A leader must be a great communicator, must motivate its people and be skillful at delegating responsibilities. Excellent leaders understand the importance of earning the trust of those around them, are creative, responsible, accountable for their actions and are always eager to learn new skills and become better at what they do.

A Skillful Coach

Coaching and mentoring are some of the most powerful yet underused tools in the kit of an excellent manager. Coaching and mentoring focuses in aiding young professionals reach their full potential within the organization by providing them with real world experience that helps bridge the gap between what they have learned in educational institutions and what they will face in an actual real business environment. Good coaching affects not just the individual employees but also the company’s culture, the achievement of organizational goals and the overall employee morale. This happens because companies create these mentoring programs in order to align the goals of the organization to the professional development of its employees and to accomplish this, it is necessary to have leader capable of providing superb coaching.

* Featured Image courtesy of Luigi Mengato at

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