Essential Leadership Characteristics

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LP 3: Essential Leadership Characteristics

Learning to embody the key characteristics of effective leadership is essential for all senior leaders of successful companies in the modern global business environment. Organizational productivity, processes, and programs depend on transformational leadership, a system dedicated to changing and motivating workers and the diverse communities in which they are employed. Specifically, transformational leadership uses direct and active involvement, and the development of a shared vision, among other methods, to achieve organizational goals. Despite the many challenges associated with these leadership components, much work has been done toward articulating how to mitigate these obstacles.

Globalization and the spread of communication technologies have resulted in an increased demand for quality from corporations around the world. This means that any successful firm must do everything it can to maintain its competitive advantage over rivals. Many studies have explored the connection between leadership styles, productivity, and the quality of the product being produced. The results are conclusive that the old, disengaged, autocratic style of leadership is not conducive to improvements in quality, and must be overhauled to fit the demands of a new age (Bushra, Usman, & Naveed, 2011, p. 261). These needs have necessitated the development of the transformational theory of leadership.

Researchers have found a direct negative correlation between the passive, or lassez-faire style of leadership, and the perceptions of subordinate employees concerning the implementation of quality management (Hirtz, Murray, & Riordan, 2007, p. 26). This indicates the importance of close and constant involvement by senior leaders, as well as the development of a shared vision. We now know that “employees who are pleased with their supervisors/leaders and feel that they are being treated with respect and are valued by their management feel more attachment with their organizations” (Bushra et al., 2011, p. 261). Transformational leadership is the concept that brings all these positive characteristics of leadership together.

While the active presence of leaders is necessary for productivity improvement programs, it is not enough on its own. Senior leaders must also develop efficient performance measurement protocols to ensure that progress is being made. “if performance measurement and reward systems are designed by top management to support goals of continuous process improvements, subordinates and other workers will genuinely feel empowered toward positive participation” (Hoffman & Mehra, 1999, p. 229). Not only should the measurement system be accurate and informative, it should be designed to encourage the best aspects of worker commitment. “employees not only do a better job when they believe their supervisors are transformational leaders, but that they also are much more satisfied with the company’s performance appraisal system” (Bass, 1991, p. 25). By combining performance measurement systems, training, empowerment, and a reward system, senior leaders can foster an environment of total employee involvement, which should lead to a successful productivity improvement program (Hoffman & Mehra, 1999, p. 230). Crucially, these four factors leading to total employee involvement must be instituted by deeply involved senior leaders.

Transformational leaders do not simply demand the changes that the company needs to make to move forward (Fig. 1), they form a comprehensive vision, embody it personally, and actively seek to propagate it throughout the company. Quality management pioneer W. Edwards Deming perceived the importance of a shared vision, or philosophy, early on. The second of his famous fourteen points reads “Adopt the new philosophy” (Hirtz et al., 2007, p. 22). Senior leaders have the opportunity to bring workers together with the uplifting message of a shared vision, which should appeal to their dreams, values, and interests (Chiok Foong Loke, 2001, p. 3). Only recently have experts noticed that ideological and values-based frameworks are more effective at motivating workers than the promise of material rewards or incentives.

This involved and philosophical style of leadership motivates creativity and dedication among workers. “Transformational leaders…help employees to become more creative, innovative and bring such new ideas which allow the organization to grow competitively and adapt itself to the changing external environment” (Bushra et al., 2011, p. 266). Interestingly, we see in the chart below that a lack of incentive or rewards ranks quite low among factors negatively affecting improvement.

(Figure 1 omitted for preview. Available via download)

Transformational leadership is not without its challenges. If a leader’s shared vision is too ambitious, or too impractical for workers to put into action without great sacrifice, the entire vision can be viewed with cynicism by employees and abandoned (Chiok Foong Loke, 2001, p. 202). This is why feedback and communication with workers are so important in the implementation of a new corporate vision. Again, we see that the regular and intimate involvement of senior leaders is indispensable to the success of productivity improvement programs.

Another challenge is the presentation of the new vision or improvement system in a nuanced and gradual manner. “It is important not to use one narrowly focused intervention” (Chiok Foong Loke, 2001, p. 12). Over-enthusiastic leaders might overwhelm their subordinates with what seems like massive structural changes to their workplace and established routines. Leaders should approach new programs in a gradual, encouraging manner that takes employee reactions and opinions into account.

Finally, transformational leadership should avoid the pitfalls of classic attempts at productivity improvement, such as cliché mottos and demands of perfection. Deming noted this in number ten of his fourteen points. “Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce who asks for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Inspire the workforce to self-directed excellence” (Berry, 2003, p. 5). The essence of transformational leadership is found in the idea that workers thrive in an environment where creativity and independent problem-solving are encouraged and rewarded, as opposed to directive or authoritarian approaches.

Transformational leadership is a valuable modern framework for senior leaders to follow in their mission to keep their company innovative, competitive, and profitable. These essential qualities of a successful business can only be achieved by means of a motivated and energetic management team and workforce. The main tools with which senior leaders can create such an environment are direct involvement and the development of a shared vision. The institution of a process-oriented performance measurement system also leads workers to independently and actively seek to improve processes. Transformational leadership is only successful with a full commitment by senior leaders, and anything less can result in cynicism and the failure of improvement programs. With total involvement and a shared vision, leaders can foster continuing growth and success.


Bass, B. M. (1991). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 18-31.

Berry, D. (2003). There is a relationship between systems thinking and W. Edwards Deming’s theory of profound knowledge. Retrieved from

Bushra, F., Usman, A., & Naveed, A. (2011). Effect of transformational leadership on employees’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment in banking sector of Lahore (Pakistan). International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(18), 261-267.

Chiok Foong Loke, J. (2001). Leadership behaviours: Effects on job satisfaction, productivity, and organizational commitment. Journal of Nursing Management, 9, 191-204.

Hirtz, P. D., Murray, S. L., & Riordan, C. A. (2007). The effects of leadership on quality. Engineering Management Journal, 19(1), 22-27.

Hoffman, J. M., & Mehra, S. (1999). Management leadership and productivity improvement programs. International Journal of Applied Quality Management, 2, 221-232.

LP 3.1 Discussion

Effective leadership for productivity, processes, and programs consists of several factors. The two most important factors for leadership are involvement and the development of a shared vision among everyone in the organization.

Empirical studies have shown that lack of involvement from the senior leadership has a direct effect on the motivation of workers all the way down the managerial chain (Hoffman & Mehra, 1999, p. 228). Lack of enthusiasm and presence by the senior leaders of an organization can cause workers on the ‘ground floor’ to care less about productivity, and can even result in the failure of quality improvement programs like TQM (Hoffman & Mehra, 1999, p. 229).

The development of a shared vision is part of a responsible leader’s job and is a crucial factor in the successful management of an organization. Both job satisfaction and organizational commitment have been strongly linked to senior leadership’s ability to communicate and foster a shared vision, or mission statement to all members of the organization (Chiok Foong Loke, 2001, p. 202). The leader must be aware, however, of how changes in organizational vision might affect workers. If the changes are too troublesome, lower-level employees and managers might view the mission statement with cynicism (Chiok Foong Loke, 2001, p. 202).


Chiok Foong Loke, J. (2001). Leadership behaviours: effects on job satisfaction, productivity, and organizational commitment. Journal of Nursing Management, 9, 191-204.

Hoffman, J. M., & Mehra, S. (1999). Management Leadership and Productivity Improvement Programs. International Journal of Applied Quality Management, 2, 221-232.

LP 3.2

An analysis of Edward Deming’s fourteen points for effective quality management shows great similarities to the top two leadership qualities discussed in LP 3.1, which were leader involvement and development of a shared vision. Deming’s points elaborate and expand on these two characteristics in detail. In particular, Deming’s point #7 discusses the institution of active leadership “The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of an overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers” (Hirtz, Murray, & Riordan, 2007, p. 22). Without the active involvement of senior leaders, managers and the workers under them lose motivation and enthusiasm for the quality of their work. The second most important quality of a leader, the development of a shared vision, is also emphasized by Deming’s point #2, which pertains to adopting a guiding philosophy. “We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn the responsibilities, and take on leadership for change” (Hirtz et al., 2007, p. 22). These two points combine the leadership qualities discussed in LP 3.1 by emphasizing that a leader should adopt the guiding vision to which he/she is asking the managers and workers to adhere.

These qualities are particularly important in the global business environment, where too often a firm’s guiding vision can become secondary to the pursuit of comparative advantages in foreign countries. When firms attempt to boost revenue by taking advantage of a corrupt nation’s lax approach to worker’s rights and environmental regulation, they risk losing the legitimacy of their guiding vision. Domestic workers might become cynical about this vision if they see senior leadership disregarding it for profit. In this way, Deming’s emphasis on leadership involvement and adoption of a guiding philosophy is very relevant to the modern world of global business.


Hirtz, P. D., Murray, S. L., & Riordan, C. A. (2007). The Effects of Leadership on Quality. Engineering Management Journal, 19(1), 22-27.

LP 4.1

Process maps are one of the most popular tools for quality management and improvement. The origin of the process map can be traced back to a presentation, given by Frank Gilbreth, to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1921 (Graham, 2008, p. 1). Gilbreth was searching for a way to systematically map work processes to improve their efficiency. “We map processes to make them better so that they, in turn, can do a better job of helping people do their jobs better” (Graham, 2008, p. 4). A process map achieves this by using various symbols to denote different aspects of work processes, such as operations, transportation, and inspection. By providing a visual representation of processes, we can determine where they function efficiently, and where there is waste.

Another tool, or methodology, for managing and improving quality, is the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) model. Sometimes called the Shewhart cycle, PDCA was made popular by W. Edwards Deming, who first presented it in Japan at a lecture for quality improvement (Moen & Norman, 2006). The PDCA model is a repetitive framework that, if followed, can improve quality. Planning, or designing, is followed by doing. In manufacturing, where this method was originally implemented, “doing” denotes the actual assembly process. After the product is made, “checking” involves evaluating customer satisfaction, after which, the organization will “act” on the feedback to provide the necessary changes.


Graham, B. (2008, June). The roots of business process mapping. BPTrends.

Moen, R., & Norman, C. (2006). Evolution of the PDCA cycle. Retrieved from

LP 4.2

An interesting method for rating productivity is the efficiency method, which seeks to rate workers or processes based on their contribution to the needs of the organization. In the example I found, the workers on a construction site were analyzed based on three variables: effective work, contributory work, and idleness. Each worker was observed and their total paid hours were divided into each of these three categories. The foreman was found to be effective 42% of the time, contributory 39% of the time, and idle 19% of the time. The four laborers studied did not fare as well, with one of them reaching a score of 53% idle. Overall, the study found that, for all workers combined, only 22% of their time was spent doing effective work.

As an organization leader, I would find this method very valuable in determining the capability and effectiveness of myself and the workers I was leading. By performing a study like this, I could rate each team member by their effectiveness, contributory work, and idleness, and make important decisions about employment and assignments. Furthermore, it seems that by rearranging workers into different jobs and conducting the study again, I could determine which workers excelled or failed in which capacities. This could lead me to effectively distribute workers according to their strengths, and make staffing cuts where necessary.

LP 4 Assignment


The following process map and manuscript illustrate the processes involved in the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century (AFSO21) level 2 certification program, otherwise known as the Lean Sigma Six (LSS) Black Belt. The Lean Sigma Six program aims to train and create expert problem solvers who specialize in eliminating waste and improving efficiency in their workplace. The process map below specifies the various steps necessary in the certification process, from candidate selection to continuous training and improvement. The manuscript below analyzes the training requirements and how they are designed to improve productivity, processes, and programs in the U.S. Air Force.

(Figure 1 omitted for preview. Available via download)

The AFSO21 program aims to train Airmen in the U.S. Air Force in techniques and methods for achieving greater productivity in the workplace. The ongoing goal of the Air Force Smart Operations program is to increase value-added work time while reducing wait time and non-value added work time (see fig 2). This saves resources, taxpayer money, and increases the speed and efficiency of important logistical programs and processes.

(Figure 2 omitted for preview. Available via download)

The level 2 certification is known outside the military as the LSS Black Belt, which aims to teach the soldiers additional techniques for efficiency as well as how to train the newly selected candidates for level 1 (LSS Green Belt) certification. After certified Green Belts are selected by their superiors, they must ensure they have satisfied all academic prerequisites as well as attending and conducting three additional training events. At this time, senior officers will vet the selected candidates and nominate those who fulfill all requirements. At this time, nominees will set out to fulfill the Black Belt requirements, which include academic instruction, mentoring two Green Belt trainees, and facilitating at least three Green Belt level events (Air Force Special Operations Command, 2012, p. 11). At this time, senior officers will make the final decision regarding Black Belt certification.


Air Force Special Operations Command. (2012, 27 September). Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century [Press release]. U.S. Air Force.

HQ USAF/A3-SO. (2006, 7 February). Air Force Smart Ops for the 21st Century (AFSO21) Implementation Plan [Press release]. United States Air Force.

LP 5.1

The process of planning and implementing plans for major projects is essential for achieving the goals of the project. The main benefits of effective planning are time-saved, minimization of wasted resources, minimization of uncertainties, and the improvement of employee confidence. There are several issues to consider when formulating an effective plan. First, the involvement of all team members must be maximized. The best way to achieve this is by forming the team out of workers who are directly affected by the plan and the problem it aims to solve (Bryson & Bromiley, 1993, p. 327). Next, a leader should consider the skill, experience, and the amount of staff needed for the plan. After this, discussions should determine what kind of technology is needed to implement the plan and whether technology is available (Bryson & Bromiley, 1993, p. 327). Interestingly, this study found a negative correlation between the power of the organization and the frequency and extent of communication between team members. Large, powerful organizations tend to use an autocratic approach to planning that can make it more difficult (Bryson & Bromiley, 1993, p. 327).

With these factors taken into account, an effective plan can improve productivity, processes, and programs by increasing the control a leader has over the essential processes of the organization. Planning also increases the likelihood of innovation within an organization, since it involves creative interaction and the exchange of ideas.


Bryson, J. M., & Bromiley, P. (1993). Critical factors affecting the planning and implementation of major projects. Strategic Management Journal, 14, 319-337.

LP 5.2

The use of sophisticated planning tools such as Primavera can be immensely helpful in the design and implementation of a plan for a major project, but leaders and organizations should take certain factors into mind when deciding what kind of tool to use. Sometimes it is more advantageous to use simple visual planning methods such as a process map or even a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation. Essentially, it is the size of the organization and planning project that should determine which methods are used. Primavera is most effective when used for large, complex projects involving dozens of team members and many interacting variables. Not only is Primavera a relatively expensive software suite, but it requires a computer-savvy operator with a background in planning methods. A small or medium-sized business may not have staff who are capable of effectively utilizing the program and making its results comprehensible by other team members. A simpler plan may even become overly complicated if the planning tools are too sophisticated. Large organizations, on the other hand, will benefit from the professional appearance of the software, which will appeal to clientele and staff. For such an organization, major plans will often involve a large number of interacting variables which a simple planning tool will not be able to keep track of effectively. In such cases, sophisticated tools such as Primavera are the best option.

LP 5 Assignment: PowerPoint Presentation

Slide 1: Abstract

My plan to improve productivity is to organize a Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) for eliminating waste on Patriot Express, the U.S. Air Force contract carrier.

“Space Available Flight, more commonly referred to as Space-A travel or military hops, is a privilege afforded to military service members, their families, and service retirees” (baseops website, n.d., p. 1).

While thousands of individuals fly for free via Space-A travel each year, resources can be saved by disallowing the free snacks that have been provided in the past.

(Figure 1 omitted for preview. Available via download)

Slide 2

The basic principle of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century (AFSO21) is the identification and elimination of waste.

“Rapid Improvement Events usually last a week and apply a series of problem solving steps to determine root causes of problems, eliminate waste, set improvement targets and establish clear performance measures to reach desired effects” (Air Force Special Operations Command, 2012)

The goal for our RIE is to identify an example of waste in Space-A travel, and quickly eliminate it.

Slide 3

Businesses can often save significant amounts of revenue by cutting down on non-essential perks or services.

A famous story from the 80s about Robert Crandall, then head of American Airlines, relates how he calculated that eliminating one olive from each first-class meal would save the company $100,000 per year (Serwer, 2013, p. 1).

“United Airlines… recently got rid of those "refresher" towels on most short journeys, cut back on in-flight videos and removed grapefruit juice from its bar menus…as part of an overall $200 million cost cutting program” (Serwer, 2013, p. 1).

Abundant, free, brand name snacks on Space-A flights take up significant resources and should be discontinued.

Slide 4

Our RIE will determine the exact monetary and human resource cost of the snack service.

Among these work processes, which add value and which do not?

Discuss alternative ways to satisfy passenger needs.

(Figure 2 omitted for preview. Available via download)

Slide 5: Identifying wastes

The snack service is relevant to several categories of waste.

Excess Inventory: ties up capital

Transportation: snack service creates unnecessary movement of goods, consumes space, and adds time to flight crew preparation, service, and cleanup.

Non-Value Added Processing: creates delays.

(Figure 3 omitted for preview. Available via download)

Slide 7

We conclude that the work processes involved in the acquisition, storage, distribution, and disposal of free in-flight snacks is unnecessary given that the flight is free.

More importantly, the cost of these items adds up significantly over time, creating unnecessary budgetary pressures.

Slide 8: References

Air Force Special Operations Command. (2012, 27 September). Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century [Press release]. U.S. Air Force.

Serwer, A. E. (2013, May 23). Business penny-pinching adds up. abcNews. Retrieved from

baseops website. (n.d.).

LP 5 Reflection

In the course of this semester, I have learned several important things about quality improvement, leadership, and the essential factors relating to productivity, processes, and programs. The initial coursework focused on the origins and first applications of the quality improvement movement in the post-war period. I learned how W. Edwards Deming first applied and popularized the Shewhart cycle in his lectures to Japanese businesses seeking to streamline their operations in the context of advanced production infrastructure and a labor shortage. Japanese openness to these new ideas may very well have been the major contributing factor in the dominance of that country in industries such as automobile manufacturing in the 70s and 80s (Moen & Norman, 2006). The complicated political implications of this fact show how important quality improvement can be for a nation and even the standard of living its citizens enjoy.

The history and background of quality improvement helped me to understand the quality standards that were developed in the 20th century to enhance efficiency and quality in productivity, processes, and programs. The Baldrige criteria demonstrated how many factors go into considerations of quality. Particularly, I was interested in the question of “how senior leaders’ personal actions and your governance system guide and sustain your organization” (Baldrige CPE. 2013-2014, p. 2-3). I learned that the two most important qualities a senior leader can possess are regular involvement and the creation of a shared vision. Charismatic leadership can be inspiring for workers, but if the leader is not involved with the day-to-day activities, or if his/her vision is too obscure and not adequately explained, programs for change can fail.

Learning about the various quality improvement tools that have been developed was also a valuable experience. From the origin of the process map in 1921 to the international standardization of its symbols in the 40’s, this research gave me valuable insight into the care and talent that has been utilized in the long search for what Frank Gilbreth called “the one best way” (Graham, 2008, p. 1). On the other hand, I learned that sophisticated planning tools like Primavera, though effective for large organizations, should probably be avoided by smaller companies. In such cases, simpler visual tools will suffice for explaining a plan.

Another important learning experience in this course concerns the value of reflections such as this one. One could think of a written reflection as, itself, an implementation of the PDCA cycle, particularly the “check” element. By reflecting on the course, I have been able to check my approach to the subject matter, assignments, and coursework. Noting the flaws and successes in my approach will allow me to improve my performance in other organizational tasks and programs. In this way, I feel that I and my classmates have come full-circle in the course of this program.


Baldrige CPE. (2013-2014). Retrieved from

Graham, B. (2008, June). The roots of business process mapping. BPTrends.

Moen, R., & Norman, C. (2006). Evolution of the PDCA cycle.