"It’s Okay To Be The Boss"


I wrote about the “Ask Me Why” button last week and here's another one I've meant to write about for a while. My wife was given this button at a work event where somebody talked about leadership.

The simple button struck me because many managers are afraid of being the boss. They're too nice. They don't like conflict or holding people accountable. Those people need this button.

Being a leader means means holding people accountable and inspiring them to improve things. This doesn't always equate with “being nice” or being liked. The Toyota approach of “respect for people” is not about being nice or being soft on people. That's the double-edged approach — you're supportive and coaching, yet you can set high standards and hold people to them.

The Lean approach to leadership says you should lead as if you have no authority. This doesn't mean you put your formal authority in the desk drawer to never be used. Falling back on formal authority should be a last resort, but you should keep that option for when it's appropriate. If you see someone NOT wearing their personal protective equipment, you have to step up. You might “tell” them to wear it, but you can also take the extra “respect for people” step and explain WHY they should (it's for their safety). If they refuse, then you can fall back on “because I said so, because I'm the boss.”

But, if you're telling people “because I said so” every day, something is wrong with your organization and something is wrong with your leadership style, at least if you're trying to be Lean.

I hope you all had great weeks. I had an amazing week with my Lean work, seeing great leadership and Lean improvement (hence, my time away from the blog… leading one reader to assume something was broken with the blog… no I was just busy). I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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