What does leadership mean in manufacturing?
When I was asked what leadership meant to me, my first thought was that it was going to be a very difficult question to answer in a few hundred words.
In my opinion, good leadership is rare. Some people are born to be great leaders but generally the majority of us are not. However, the good news is that leadership is a skill, and just like any skill, it can be taught. When it comes to good leaders, I believe they all possess the same skills and attributes:
Vision: It is the executive leadership's role to create a clear vision if they expect the workforce to follow them. Top management has a responsibility for the underlying philosophy and attitudes of its employees.
Integrity: A leader must have the trust of followers and therefore must display integrity.
Fairness: This means dealing with others consistently and justly. A leader must check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgement. He or she must avoid leaping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. When people feel they that are being treated fairly, they reward a leader with loyalty and dedication.
Assertiveness: Not to be confused with aggressiveness! Rather, it is the ability to clearly state what you expect so that there are no misunderstandings. A leader must be assertive to get the desired results.
Engaging: From a personal perspective, this is possibly the most important skill a leader can have. If a leader can engage their workforce in the company's goals and vision they are already halfway there.
In September 2011 I enrolled on The Manufacturing Institute’s MSc in Manufacturing Leadership and so far, the programme has been crucial to my personal effectiveness. It’s helped me to build, develop and shape my own leadership qualities. Just as importantly, it’s also developed my understanding of the major challenges and trends for future manufacturing, the need for change and how to align business strategy with the day-to-day running of a manufacturing plant.
Stuart Devlin-Gray is the Process Improvement Manager at James Dawson Global Hose, a leading manufacturer of advanced silicone, EPDM and other polymeric hoses for the truck, bus, diesel engine and construction machinery markets. He has just completed his first year of the MSc in Manufacturing Leadership and is due to graduate from the programme in 2014.