Accelerating Growth Through Continuous Improvement

Anatomy of a Lean Leader

Leaders of lean-thinking organizations require some unique, even contradictory traits. They must be servants as well as trailblazers, good listeners, and mentors as well as visionaries and team players. While traditional companies might be able to get by with old-fashioned, command-and-control managers, lean organizations need the talents, enthusiasm, and opinions of every person. This means that leaders must serve the people and the processes while guiding everyone toward fulfilling the organization’s true purpose. It is a tall order and, in many ways, a new definition of leadership.

For 30 years, Jerry Bussell studied leadership while bringing lean practices to companies such as Medtronic and becoming a passionate, well-known advocate for lean. In that time, he saw many lean initiatives fail through lack of leadership or repeated missteps by those in charge. Realizing that leaders rarely understood the needs of an organization that is becoming highly efficient, self-motivated and improvement driven, he set out to help. In a lean environment, after all, true leadership is not a nicety; it is a necessity.

In this book, Jerry identifies the ten essential characteristics of a lean leader and illustrates those traits with stories from modern CEOs and one of this country’s greatest leaders, President Abraham Lincoln. Whether you are a CEO or running your first Kaizen event, this book will keep you engaged and help you focus on the behaviors and attitudes that are essential to creating the kind of continuous closed-loop improvement that is the heart of lean thinking.

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Praise for Anatomy of a Lean Leader

In Anatomy of a Lean Leader, Jerry Bussell draws from his rich lifetime of learning and wealth of stories from the gemba to weave together important lessons from exemplary lean leaders such as Paul O’Neill, Shad Khan, and John Toussaint. Jerry shares his own moment of truth, tough choices, and lessons learned, as well as those of his mentors. Jerry’s energy and passion are the stuff of legend. With this book, he invites the reader to follow him down a fulfilling path of leading and learning.

John Shook
Chairman, Lean Global Network
Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute

There are managers who have adopted Lean programs and then there are leaders like Jerry Bussell, who have passionately developed themselves to live Lean leadership.

Jeffrey K. Liker
Author, The Toyota Way

This book shares essential lessons from one of history’s giants juxtaposed with concrete examples from contemporary lean leaders and punctuated with thoughtful questions and reflection. Jerry’s book inspires and inquires.

Bruce Hamilton
President, GBMP, Inc.

This is a practical guide to leading a lean organization by one of the masters. This book provides proven leadership principles laced with inspirational examples drawn from experiences of the author and other lean leaders, and even Abraham Lincoln. I recommend this for leaders at any level who are on the lean journey.

Dr. Peter Ward
Chairman, Lean Enterprise Institute

Servant leadership, humility, and failure are not widely held as cornerstones for great leaders. Jerry makes a compelling case that these traits are essential for any leader whose goals are sustainability and significance.

Paul Akers
President, Fast Cap

Jerry Bussell touches on a much-needed component in the lean transformation and that’s effective leadership based on timeless principles and values. This is a must read for anyone leading an organization through a lean transformation.

Mike Hoseus
Co-author, Toyota Culture-The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way