Research has shown that leadership is an important factor when implementing and developing a TPS (Toyota Production System) inspired Lean way of working in organizations. In spite of it´s stated importance, leadership is indicated as a weak area and a problem in many organizations striving to develop as Lean enterprises. To successfully implement and develop a sustainable Lean way of working it becomes essential to understand what kind of leadership a Lean organization requires. There is a stated gap in Lean literature regarding management and difficulties in implementation are indicated to often occur due to overlooked but crucial differences in approach in management.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe leadership from a Lean perspective and identify possible key factors regarding leadership for a developing Lean organization.
Method: This paper is based on a literature study.
Results: Leadership within a Lean organization can be said to be characterized by a deep knowledge regarding the operation processes in order to be able to mentor, coach, and develop employees in line with company standards, goals and vision. It is indicated that a leaders primary responsibility is to support in the development of subordinates by taking active part in problem solving and by role modeling. To develop people in a way means to continuously challenge them, this challenge being a way to assure continuous improvement. With a long term perspective and the principle of “respect for people” in mind this means balancing the challenge to avoid overburdening (muri). Two aspects are of importance here; deep knowledge regarding company processes, standards and protocol and a close working relationship with subordinates in order to be able to continously coach, mentor, and take active part in problem solving.
Discussion: Leadership and the role of management in Lean implementation and development will, if continuous improvement and not just implementation of tools is aspired, be to support structures and behaviors needed for problem solving and organizational learning. Toyota is by several sources described as a learning organization and Lean systems based on Toyota will thus require a leadership and a management system that meet the requirements of a learning organization. This type of leadership appears to be similar to what Bass (1999) describes as transformational and transactional leadership where inspiration & idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration are key factors as well as goal setting, contracting, structure and standards.
Value: This paper provides insights regarding possible key factors concerning leadership in regard to Lean implementation and development as well as the importance and purpose of leadership in a lean organization.