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Leadership For Lean Manufacturing

Charismatic Leadership for Lean

Herb Kelleher

Herb Kelleher

His goofy touch helped Southwest Airlines amass 35 years of profitability.

The Paradigm Problem

Why is Charismatic Leadership so important for the transition to Lean Manufacturing? The answers have to do with paradigms, empowerment and motivation.

We all view the world through the lens of experience (our paradigm). This lens may distort reality to it fit our paradigm. Alternatively, the lens ignores or rejects information that does not fit the paradigm.

This is not a personality defect, it is the way brains work. Human brains are self-organizing pattern recognition systems. When new information fits an established pattern, the brain works well. New information that does not fit an established pattern causes confusion and, subsequent distortion or rejection.

The power of charisma overcomes this. Emotional commitment to the Charismatic Leader allows followers to accept the leader's paradigm in spite of the brain's confusion. Gradually, the brain develops a new paradigm based on new evidence and experience.

Empowerment, Efficacy & Self-Correction

Successful Lean Manufacturing requires high levels of empowerment for people and work teams. Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo must have understood this implicitly, but they did not write about it very much.

This empowerment is necessary for the system to self-correct at the lowest levels. Highly directive, bureaucratic systems that attempt to correct at high levels are inherently unstable.

The diagram illustrates how self-efficacy and empowerment lead to self-correction and system stability. Self-efficacy also leads to increasing self-confidence which leads to more empowerment.

Empowerment & self correction and leadership


All of this ties in to motivation. People and teams who believe they have control of their situation work harder and perform better. They take pride in their efforts. Pride gives meaning to their work and their lives.

You may see this cycle at work in the classic film "Twelve O'clock High". Our download of Major Attila Bognar's article on this film clearly illustrates the role of the charismatic leader.

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