Qualities Of An Exceptional Leader

Leadership has five components–Roles and Responsibilities, Appreciation for a System, Knowledge of Variation, Theory of Knowledge, and Psychology.


History will remember Walter Shewhart, not just for originating the control chart, but for understanding and teaching a management philosophy that stressed leadership and customer satisfaction long before those terms were buzzwords. The highest executives in any company must be personally involved in efforts to improve performance.


Experience has taught us that it is not sufficient for the top executives to permit quality or performance-improvement efforts within their organization; they must be personally involved and, in fact, be driving the entire activity.  One day I was explaining the House of Quality to a co-worker on why Six Sigma is a different vehicle than its predecessors.  I said that Six Sigma differs in that it is truly driven by the chief executive and the board of directors.  It has always been wishful thinking to have the top executives involved in the other vehicles but, in reality, they gave lip service and deployed or delegated the responsibility downward in the organization in most cases.  She responded, “Oh, you mean this vehicle has a different driver.”  Her metaphor is very accurate.


What is the role of leadership?  The aim of leadership should be to help people, machines, and gadgets do a better job.  Effective leadership sets direction, improves performance (taking focused action), and produces results.  Leadership accepts that people want to do a good job and be proud of their work.  The role, then, is not to motivate and inspect but to remove roadblocks that will permit the people to do better work and provide direction for the organization.

The leader’s job is to:

  • Find out who is in need of special help and see that they get it
  • Coach and counsel
  • Understand variation
  • Remove obstacles
  • Focus on customer
  • Develop and get buy-in on the aim of the company (constancy of purpose)
  • Improve the system
  • Create an atmosphere of trust
  • Know the job, how it fits the overall product
  • Forgive a mistake.


Quality education and philosophy begins at the top of the organization.  Expect and insist upon proud craftsman-like performance. Zero Defects is not a motivational slogan, it is a management performance standard.

Managers’ attitudes reverberate through the organization and those with no interest in total quality control should be weeded out. And, why should they have an interest in total quality control? The Japanese have only one word for both control and management ,which is a lesson for us. I have used these words interchangeably in this paper. I also view quality and performance improvement as interchangeable terms.

Deming quotes Julian Huxley, “A practical man is one who practices the errors of his forefathers” and that is no longer acceptable.  Change is upon us; it is not optional. Technology, quality, cycle time, cost, delivery means from producer to consumer, leadership, and customer expectations are changing at an ever-increasing pace. We cannot stand still.

Quality control should not be practiced simply because it is fashionable.  Its purpose is to rationalize industry, establish technology, and enable companies to develop the ability to secure good profits and beat international competition. Quality control must be continued throughout the life of a company. Get every department involved in a commitment to total quality. Communication must be extensively transmitted to all employees to sow the seeds of participative management.