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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Leadership and Quality – Part 2



I mentioned previously that I have been going through The Harvard Business Review must read book, The Essentials.  I am intrigued by the theme of Leadership and its parallels to Quality.  The article in The Essentials, first written by Daniel Goleman in 1996 was a seminal paper on the topic.  Its publication in 2011 continues to show its influence in the leadership arena, even though Goleman past away in 2010.

Anyone who works in an organization knows and understands that some folks are better leaders than others.  While it has something to do with skill and talent and knowledge and problem solving, it is also their ability to interact with people.  In the 1920’s (at the same time as Shewhart was setting the foundations of Quality) Thorndike was introducing the concept of social intelligence.  In the 1940’s (at the same time as Deming and Juran and Crosby were defining Quality) Wechsler was defining the impacts of social-emotional intelligence on intellectual behaviour.  In the 1980’s and 1990’s (while Galvin was creating Quality measurement tools – Six Sigma) Goleman and others were creating tools to measure Emotional Intelligence (EI), and reporting strong correlations between EI and performance.

As Goleman saw the world, when he studied leaders in near 200 organizations around the world, what he observed was that intellect was a given key driver, as were the ability to think long term and to see the big picture, but the single biggest factor that distinguished high performance leaders from the rest of the pack was their ability to be self motivated and their ability to motivate others, as components of EI.

He defined five components to EI including the abilities to be self aware (self assessment and self confidence), the ability to self-regulate (trust and ability to deal with stress and change), motivation (in this sense, self-motivation and work passion), being empathetic (considering others) and having the social skills to move people.  Importantly will the right psychology tools all these were measurable and interpretable.  Even more importantly all these skills were both teachable and learnable.  

In Goleman’s world, leaders were not necessarily born, they actually could be created.  And seen another way, with sufficient motivation, a person could learn the talents necessary to become a better leader.  

Gradually as we went through the last 10-15 years, some (maybe much) of what studies about EI had eroded.  Not all the original research on the impact of EI and leadership has been reproducible; this as been especially true with respect to the studies between EI and performance.  Similar to Six Sigma, some of the so-called bloom has come off the rose.  Extending the parallels with Quality, see Noble MA.  2007 Does external evaluation of laboratories improve patient safety?  Clin Chem Lab Med. 2007;45(6):753-5.

There are a lot of parallels between Leadership and Quality.  Both of them are associated with helping organizations get the most and best performance from people.  Both of them focus attention on the seeing the primary task at hand and seeing the best way to achieve it.  While I am more in the camp that leaders are born category, but I will say that I have met people who have improved their leadership skills and talents over time.  Goleman put some of it down to maturity, the combination of age and experience.  I can buy that. 
Even if the measuring tools at the moment have some challenges in making the case for either EI or external evaluation (accreditation or proficiency testing), it does not mean that either hypothesis is wrong.  It can also mean that the systems of data are in constant change and have a huge number of variables which the current measurement tools have difficulty in addressing.  From my personal perspective, at the end of the aforementioned paper, I mentioned that just because we can’t prove the value of accreditation or PT is not a good reason to stop either.  I suspect the same is true for trying to be objective when seeking good leaders. 

I have been in sufficient laboratories to know and understand and buy-into the reality that some laboratories make more errors than others and some laboratories work to prevent errors from recurring while others do not.  Laboratories can learn about Quality and implement Quality effectively.  And while I can’t prove it, it is my observation that leaders that permit and encourage and motivate the creation of a Culture of Quality are better leaders of better laboratories.  

Leaders that don’t give a damn are not.  

1 comment:

  1. In my work as a quality management consultant I have seen the evidence to support the assertion that good leaders have good quality labs. It is my observation that good leadership includes supporting staff and providing the necessary resources to do their work. Among other things, this means having sufficient staff, equipment in good working order and access to continuing education. All of these are of course requirements for quality. A good leader cares about the staff, this is turn is felt by the staff who reciprocate by wanting to do a good job. The reverse is also true and we can probably all come up with stories about bad bosses.

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