Level One Leaders in Lean


Research states that “46% of all improvement initiatives fail because of lack of leadership.”1  Having too many Level One Leaders will kill your Lean transformation.  Here is how to identify them!

Much has already been written on Lean Leadership. Jim Womack and John Shook at the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) describe the evolution of leadership models as going from ‘Do it my way’ (old Dictator style) to ‘Do it your way’ (1980s Empowerment style) to ‘Follow me … and let’s figure this out together’ (Lean style).

This week’s blog focuses on the ‘Do it my way’ style, John Maxwell’s Level 1 Leader who people follow because they have to.

Level 1: Position

This is the lowest level of leadership—the entry-level. People who only make it to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies, and organization charts to control their people. Their people only follow them within the stated boundaries of their authority.

Position is the only level that does not require ability and effort to achieve. Anyone can be appointed to a position. This means that position is a fine starting point, but every leader should aspire to grow beyond Level 1.

Level One Leaders

Kathy Caprino, in a recent Forbes blog, “Six Behaviors That Will Block Your Leadership Success,” describes six behaviors of a leader that will stymie your success as a leader and crush the potential of your team.

These behaviors are often found in Level 1 leaders and need to be solved to move up to the next level of leadership, Level 2: Permission.

These are the six fundamental behavior shifts essential for Level 1 leaders.


1.  Lean Six Sigma Linked In Group

2.  5 levels of Leadership; John Maxwell

Leadership Assessment2

Read the following ten statements and place a checkmark next to each one you agree is true for you. Answer using your first instinct. Please do not skip questions, and do not go back and change any of your responses.

Level 1

  • I don’t have to remind the people who work for me I am the leader.
  • I think of each person who works for me as a person, not just in terms of his or her function or role.
  • Most days I look forward to going to work.
  • I recognize that the position I’ve been given is an opportunity to learn, not turf to be guarded.
  • The people who work for me will work above and beyond their job descriptions.
  • I know that dealing with people’s problems is a part of leading and have accepted that as part of the job.
  • I possess the desire to learn more about leadership and become a better leader.
  • I think of my job in terms of work to be accomplished and give very little focus on the career path and the positions I desire to achieve along the way.
  • One of my primary objectives is to assist the people who work for me.
  • Most people find it easy to work with me.

If you marked eight or more of the previous statements as true for you, then you have probably already established yourself as a leader on Level 1 and have moved to the higher levels. Congratulations!

As always it is an honor serving you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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