Lean Leaders are Inclusive Leaders, Humble Leaders


Tree TutorialThis article caught my eye over at Becker's Hospital Review: “The Hospital CEO Dilemma: Abandon Ship or Change Leadership Style,” written by Shirley Engelmeier, Founder and CEO of InclusionINC.

She has a great list of leadership characteristics for modern hospital CEOs (which seem relevant in any industry).

Her list includes advice that leaders:

  • Put their ego in check
  • Are open to a wide range of inputs
  • Are intellectually curious
  • Are transparent, accessible and adaptable
  • Have high emotional intelligence
  • Display humility
  • Are culturally agile
  • Collaborate with their teams
  • Seek out diversity of thought

This reminds me of a list that Dr. John Toussaint shares about the characteristics of a “Lean Leader:”

  • Patient
  • Knowledgeable
  • Facilitator
  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Helper
  • Communicator
  • Guide

As he talks about here:

This style of leadership isn't complicated… but it's still somewhat rare. Do you agree? What can we do about that? Do you have leaders who exhibit those characteristics? Are you one of them?


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Tom Sedge says

    The short answer is ‘yes’, I wholeheartedly agree.

    For myself, I’d say I do my best to embody these but am always learning and improving. One of my biggest vices is to give in to the temptation to give people solutions rather than teach them how to create their own, which can be slower but is much more long-lasting.

    One of the great powers of Lean is that it can take leaders on this journey, teaching them what really matters through direct practical experience that is very hard to argue with.

    There are also elements of Servant Leadership that I think overlap with and complement these including trust-building and inspiring.

    I’ve blogged with my own take on that here:

    1. Mark Graban says

      I’d be the first to admit that I’m not a perfect Lean leader 100% of the time. I try to be better about catching myself when the natural human tendency to blame an individual pops up. I remind myself to look at the system. None of us can be perfect, but continuing to learn and continually striving to be better leaders and better people is a good start.

      1. Rob Allen says

        I agree with the points made. Command and Control is still rife in many organisations who profess to be Lean. The HR function can be both a motor and a brake when it comes to growing a Lean culture, usually a brake when it is obsessed with competency and behaviour frameworks and the like. My most recent research into Executives perceptions of strategic thinking has identified that where Executives are able to move away from command and control then surprise surprise business performance increases across the organisation.

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