There are 12 behaviours or characteristics that successful quality leaders demonstrate. These are as follows:
They give priority attention to external and internal customers and their needs. Leaders place themselves in the customers’ shoes and service their needs from that perspective. They continually evaluate the customers’ changing requirements.
They empower, rather than control, subordinates. Leaders have trust and confidence in the performance of their subordinates. They provide the resources, training and work environment to help subordinates do their jobs. However, the decision to accept responsibility lies with the individual.
They emphasise improvement rather than maintenance. Leaders use the phrase “If it isn’t perfect, improve it” rather than “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is always room for improvement, even if the improvement is small. Major breakthroughs sometimes happen, but it is the little ones that keep the continuous process improvement on a positive track.
They emphasise prevention. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true. It is also true that perfection can be the enemy of creativity. We cannot always wait until we have created the perfect process or product. There should be a balance between preventing problems and developing better, but no perfect, processes.
They encourage collaboration rather than competition. When functional areas, departments or workgroups are in competition, they may find subtle ways of working against each other or withholding information. Instead, there should be collaboration among and within units.
They train and coach, rather than direct and supervise. Leaders know that the development of human resource is a necessity. As coaches, they help their subordinates learn to do a better job.
They learn from problems. When a problem exists, it is treated as an opportunity rather than something to be minimised or covered up. “What caused it?” and “How can we prevent it in the future?” are the questions quality leaders ask.
They continually try to improve communications. Leaders continually disseminate information about the TQM effort. They make it evident that TQM is not just a slogan. Communication is two way– ideas will be generated by people when leaders encourage them and act upon them. For example, on the eve of Operation Desert Storm, General Colin Powell solicited enlisted men and women for advice on winning the war. Communication is the glue that holds a TQM organisation together.
They continually demonstrate their commitment to quality. Leaders walk their talk– their actions, rather than their words, communicate their level of commitment. They let the quality statements be their decision-making guide.
They choose suppliers on the basis of quality, not price. Suppliers are encouraged to participate in project teams and become involved. Leaders know that quality begins with quality materials and the true measure is the lifecycle cost.
They establish organisational systems to support the quality effort. At the senior management level, a quality council is provided and at the first-line supervisor level, work groups and project teams are organised to improve the process.
They encourage and recognise team effort. They encourage, provide recognition to and reward individuals and teams. Leaders know people like to know that their contributions are appreciated and important. This action is one of the leader’s most powerful tools.