How Great are Your Leadership Systems?

Do You Have a Great Leadership System?

While effective leadership skills may come naturally to some people (they are born with these skills), we have many more people with leadership responsibilities out there then we have people who were born with these skills. Additionally, few people are trained to be effective leaders as part of their formal education. If you consider these facts as a set, you may also recognize that your leadership system is in need of improvement. Whether we want to admit it or not, most leaders lead like parents. This is the leadership model they have seen demonstrated the most often, and it is the one that they are most familiar with. Unfortunately, a parental leadership approach will not lead to sustainable, high performance results. It is a harsh reality that we are hesitant to admit. We have a high percentage of ineffective leaders in our organizations, we are paying these people significant amounts of money in many cases to be ineffective, and our leadership systems are to blame.

If you want better leadership results, you have to change your leadership systems. Fortunately, there are a few organizations out there who have figured this out. They have created leadership systems which produce the results they desire, communicate a consistent, shared mission and vision across the organization, and consistently develop the skills of each of their leaders over time. You cannot improve leadership effectiveness by simply sending your leaders to workshops or asking them to change – you have to change the existing leadership systems that are giving you the undesired results. What percentage of your leaders are great leaders? How do you know? Do your leadership systems need to be improved?

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Leadership System Triad


Assessing Leadership System Effectiveness


If you would like more information about the leadership system improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at

How value added are your leaders?

For years we have used tools and concepts such as lean thinking and six sigma to take the waste out of our front line systems, but we have in general neglected to use these tools on perhaps the most important and costly system in our organizations – the leadership system. Think about — how much does your organization pay out in leadership wages and benefits each day? Are you getting what it costs from EACH of your directors, managers, and supervisors? If your leaders stopped spending time on what they spend time on each day, would your customers notice?

High performing organizations, such as those that have pursued the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, do make an effort to get high amounts of value from each of their leaders. They measure leadership effectiveness on a regular basis at all levels of the business, they make sure that each leader is developing over time, and they consistently evaluate the effectiveness of the various types of communication that leaders have with their people, both in meetings and on the job.

Most organizations however do not consistently evaluate their leaders beyond the use of the traditional job description. They may have used a 360 degree feedback tool on occasion, but few companies have linked the use of this tool to their leadership development process (if they have formally defined one). Why do we avoid searching for (demanding) measurable leadership performance? Why are we content to assume that the monthly departmental numbers each leader is responsible for give us enough feedback to determine if a leader is actually doing their job or not?


Top Ten Leadership System Weaknesses


If you would like more information about the leadership system improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at

Are your leaders ‘lost’?

When your leaders perform on the job each day, are they sending a consistent message about performance expectations? Are they behaving in a manner that is consistent with the desired culture of the organization? Are they spending their time on those activities that will benefit the company the most? If not, you probably have some lost leaders. In other words, they have lost their way relative to the mission, vision, and values of the organization – their daily behaviors are largely inconsistent with the organizational roadmap which has been defined.

We would like to think that the strategic planning notebook that we give out each year provides enough direction to make sure that each leader knows where we want to go. We hope that the monthly meetings we hold tell everyone where we are going and why. Unfortunately, the daily behavior of each leader on the job almost always overrides the contents of a notebook or the message stated in a meeting. When leaders act lost, the hypocrisy is obvious, and this hypocrisy affects personal performance contributions at all levels in the organization.

Most organizations do not have a formal approach for measuring and improving the daily job performance of their leaders. Many leaders act one way when their boss around, and totally different when they think no one above them is watching. The resultant impact on team morale, focus, and performance can be devastating. Lost leaders can do a lot of damage to an organization in a short amount of time.

What kind of direction are your leaders giving to their people each day?


Example Leadership Expectations


If you would like more information about the leadership system improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at

Would you benefit from a more effective approach to leadership?

I have learned over the years that the front line supervisor is the key leverage point for making any improvement effort work, or for making sure that the organization’s plans are executed as they are designed in general. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed on too many occasions how most businesses, schools, and hospitals tend to discount, if not completely ignore, the effectiveness of these people. Rarely do they participate in planning efforts, development activities, or good performance feedback processes. We fail to include those who really make the most difference, good or bad!

How do we solve this problem? How do we make sure that all of our leaders, and especially those that work on the front lines, are acting and performing in a manner that is consistent with what we want to be and where we want to go? The answers are simple, but they involve letting go of some belief systems that tend to be pretty deeply entrenched. Beliefs drive personal behavior on the job, and in turn, plan execution and systems design.

The greatest failure of most organizations, outside of neglecting front line leaders in general, lies in failing to ensure that desired high performance behaviors are practiced consistently and that key skills exist, or are being developed, as time goes by. For example, how many of your leaders continue to improve their computer skills to keep pace with changing technology? How do you ensure that each leader is maintaining a consistent focus on the needs of both your internal and external customers? In the simplest sense, how are you making sure that each you person you pay to be a leader is consistently treating each of their people with respect and dignity, and in turn building stronger personal relationships with those people they depend on to get the job done each day?


Leadership Development Process



If you are interested in the leadership systems and improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at

How can the performance of supervision be monitored to ensure they are effectively supporting the leadership system?

As with any type of supervision or process ownership, a balanced set of metrics and reporting should be used to track leadership behavior and task effectiveness. A ‘bottom up’ Leadership Index should be provided to each supervisor by his direct reports at least once a year as a behavior effectiveness metric. The process owner should also be held responsible for the safety, cost, quality, and people metrics that his or her processes produce over time (in the form of trend lines and a balanced scorecard) and for proving how he or she has changed work systems or develop their people to produce better results. A key mistake, which is made in most organizations, is related to expecting an external department, such as Safety, Quality, Engineering, or Human Resources, to manage the process results in these areas across multiple process groups.

As a plant manager, I expected each of my process owners (and myself) to provide the following each month – a key project list for their processes, a monthly summary of their key accomplishments and challenges, and a performance summary spreadsheet that shows DAILY process inputs and outputs. Because I expected my supervisors to spend 30-60 minutes a day on these items and use a spreadsheet to compile and organize them, I could review their progress at any time by simply looking at the spreadsheet itself, the results trend lines posted in their process areas, and/or their hard copy monthly report (or intranet web page). My “Process Excellence From the Inside Out” workshop is specifically designed to help you install a similar process for your process owners in your organization.


Examples of damaging leadership behaviors



Measuring Leadership Behavior Effectiveness

How can Great Systems help you improve your leadership system?

Over the past 35 plus years, I have helped design leadership systems in a variety of organizations – both small and large – in the manufacturing and service arenas. This experience has helped me discover value added, simple ways to set up systems for measuring leadership effectiveness, linking the results of this regular measurement to a formal leadership development process, and making sure that all leadership communications are both coordinated and value added. Lost leadership is the primary power restrictor for this power system – these tools help you both eliminate that barrier and move forward more rapidly towards higher levels of performance.


How to Improve Your Leadership System

If you are interested in the leadership systems and improvement tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at kevin@greatsystems.comBetter yet, give some thought to working further with me to help you improve your leadership system via these avenues:

Pursuing Process Excellence workshop – If you really want to accelerate your organization’s pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. This one day workshop is designed to help each participant (all leaders) identify the key constraints that are holding them back in their pursuit of process excellence. Participants also define the key processes they personally own, the waste streams that these processes contain, and the measures and actions that are needed to reduce process waste and increase customer value.

Stop Management Madness workshop – In this workshop, you will learn techniques for measuring meeting and e-mail communication effectiveness and costs in the same manner that we analyze the performance of front line work processes. You will also learn how to define typical meeting defects and rework, and how to make process improvements that will reduce that waste. Examples of systems that can be used to increase meeting process owner accountability, meeting alignment, and skills for leading effective meetings will be also be shared. Finally, you will learn how to significantly reduce e-mail waste and improve the overall effectiveness of your organization’s communication processes

How to Improve Your Leadership System workshop – This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals – define and evaluate your existing leadership system, learn about best practice approaches to leadership system design, and make key choices regarding how your leadership team wants to improve your existing leadership system for better results.

Great Books on Leadership