Quality Leadership involves being willing to lead beyond the boundaries of your professional department.
No one in business today is exempt from developing high quality leadership and professional development skills. No matter what your job title. No matter what level of education you have achieved so far.
That’s why I was intrigued by the announcement by the ASQ (American Society for Quality) that they have a new training program called Every Quality Professional a Leader on the drawing board. This Quality Leadership program provides business and soft skills training to make the case for the Quality department.
Hmmm. Are business and soft skills training “enough” to morph a person into a leader?
The ASQ asked a group of us to comment about: a) whether we think we are a quality leader; b) what kind of leadership training did we receive; and c) was it enough?
First things first. No matter how much “leadership training” I’ve received, it’s never “enough.” Each time I revisit leadership in sales, quality, finance, entrepreneurship, it looks and sounds “new” because I’ve become more experienced. My frame of reference grows. I have more business cases and insights to add to my management consulting, business coaching and professional development arsenal.
Second, whether I consider myself to be a quality leader is relative to the business environment in which I am working. If it’s a startup or small business case, I may be the only person in the room evangelizing for the importance of Quality in their business equation. If I’m working with a Fortune 500 leader with an uber established Quality department full of Six Sigma Black Belts, I’m there to lead when called for and learn from the pros when collaborating.
Third, my question for the ASQ is: why limit the horizons of your leadership training to the boundaries of your own professional department?
Leadership isn’t a Quality issue; it’s a global business and economic issue.
OK, so now you are a professional who has received business and soft skills training. How will you walk the talk to people outside of your department? Does any department outside of your own understand “what you do”?
Otherwise, all you are doing is talking to yourselves inside status quo departmental silos.
The first question you need to be able to answer as a Quality Leader is how your role impacts revenue development, productivity and profitability. Do you understand how “what you do” is related to what everyone else does?
Your company’s leadership must take a realistic look at Quality. The importance of Quality often is an overlooked – and incredibly essential – component to your business model.
Yet in startups and small businesses, Quality doesn’t become a consideration until someone messes up.
The truth about leadership is that some people lead regardless of taking a formal program in leadership training. The truth about applied leadership is that some people can’t lead, even though they have taken a course in leadership.
Leadership involves moving yourself outside of your departmental comfort zone. Leadership involves developing a bigger picture of where your company fits into today’s globally competitive business environment.
Leadership involves guts and commitment. Applied leadership involves stepping outside organized processes and practices and motivating and inspiring others to come along with you.
- Make your professional world-view more cross-functional.
- Poke holes in corporate silos.
- Learn to work with people who don’t have a clue about what you “do.”
- Enlighten them about how working with you can make their business outcomes more productive and profitable.
People follow Leaders because they inspire instead of delegate. They collaborate instead of dictate.
Are you willing to take that first step?
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is a management consultant and business coach. She helps startups and small-to-medium manufacturing and service companies who have difficulty with unpredictable revenue streams. Her book on communication and collaboration strategies and tools, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU, is available on Amazon.com.