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March 26, 2011

It’s a cliché but everything starts with and ends with Leadership. It’s from leadership that the vision comes, the inspiration for the formation, direction, energy and culture of the organization all originate. This is especially true in regard to quality. In a survey of Baldrige winning companies they cited that leadership support was a key issue to successful quality implementation and success.

Deming stated in his famous and foundational book on quality, ‘Out of the Crisis’ that “actually, most of this book is involved with leadership.”  Juran stated that “attaining quality leadership requires that upper managers personally take charge of the quality initiative.”

 “Leadership, which includes management commitment, is contained in virtually every definition of quality and every prescriptive model on how to achieve it.” (Grandzol and Gershon)  Indeed “any individual or organization that wishes to take their initial steps on their journey toward quality must begin with a near sighted examination of its organization leadership capability and culture.” (Mauro and Mauro)

So using the National Housing Quality Award to conduct a self-assessment of your organization and then applying for the evaluation/award process can be a powerful first step for self-evaluation, especially in regard to leadership, the cornerstone of driving quality! This evaluation of leadership is important. We all tend to think we are great leaders, but without honest regular feedback how do we really know? Many organizations now use 360 degree evaluations or employee satisfaction surveys with specific questions on how leadership is performing.  The ongoing development of leadership includes training and development. Leaders often focus on training for others considering themselves as not needing it; after all I made it to the top. But we all need to continue to learn, keep up on new ideas, techniques and approaches to stretch and challenge ourselves, not to mention practice what we preach.

We also need to create leaders throughout the organization, at every level. This can become a key step in creating a succession plan.  “What we need then are leader based organizations, with leadership capacity embedded throughout the organization.” (Winder and Draeger) 

A key style of ‘Quality Leadership’ is an emphasis on “creating the power of an environment of trust, openness and honest communication to encourage the development of individual quality improvement entrepreneurs.” (Feigenbaum)  This is why the use of improvement teams is common to all successful quality organizations as is the ability of individuals to make suggestions for improvement even daily and to be thinking every day about simple ways to make work easier, faster, better. This drives a quality focused culture. Leadership needs to allow this and not to shut such enthusiasm down!

So, reflect on these questions!

  • As a leader have you had feedback on your personal (and your leadership teams) leadership skills and abilities?

NOTE: If your company is not developing you as a leader, then do it yourself, get involved in leadership roles within the company on improvement teams, or if you cant do that get involved in a volunteer group, in your local Builders Association, for more experience, take a training course online if there are none near you or just find a good leadership development book. A good book is The Leadership Challenge which you can find on Amazon.


  1. What is the culture of your organization, are employees encouraged to be involved in daily and team improvement activities that are focused on strategic goals?
  2. Are you developing future leaders in your organization at every level?
  3. Do you have a succession plan?

NEXT TIME, Strategic Planning 

Written By

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering, and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners, a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition, and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. He has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

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