Leadership Characteristics in Lean Six Sigma

Juran Blog

Lean Six Sigma provides a structured method of achieving excellent results through business improvement initiatives. However, those results can be amplified if the methodology is underpinned by skilled leadership. So, what does skilled leadership look like?


Sound communication skills are a must. Successful Lean Six Sigma leaders need to be able to explain and persuade at all levels, and to tailor the message to the audience. They must also carefully listen, and question for clarification, to get to the heart of an issue.

Project management

Effective project management skills turn aims into achievements. Managing projects effectively means keeping track of a number of different issues, including ensuring progress is being made and things are moving in the right direction, resources are being fully utilized, bottlenecks are identified and eliminated, and budget is maintained.


If the wheels come off every time there’s a bump in the road, then nothing is likely to be achieved – certainly not within timeframe and budget. Problem-solving involves generating a workable solution, considering its effect on the project as a whole, and implementing it in a timely manner. It also involves anticipating problems and taking action to prevent them manifesting.

Business savvy

Leaders need to be able to see the connection between the aims of a project and the overall strategy of the business. They must understand what they are working towards and why, and what external and internal forces are likely to impact on progress.

Continual growth

Continual growth, both for the individual and for the team, develops knowledge, skills, and abilities, builds bonds, and fuels creativity. It means that things do not stagnate but are kept fresh and lively, which energizes the team and facilitates progress.


Success is achieved as a result of implementing change in a strategic way. Staff and stakeholders need to be informed and persuaded of the wisdom of the strategy, so you have their support. It takes time to turn a ship around – you can’t make huge changes overnight.


The ability to look inwards and evaluate your behavior objectively allows you to understand how others see you. You can identify where you are aligned with your personal standards and take corrective action where there is a mismatch.

Relational transparency

This involves being open and honest about your values and, having shared them with others, remaining true to them. It means sharing your authentic self, not concealing your true thoughts and feelings. Relational transparency builds trust.

Authentic leadership and behavioral integrity

Authentic leadership is an approach that is built on openness and honesty. It espouses building relationships with others that demonstrate that their input is genuinely valued.

Behavioral integrity involves demonstrating that a leader’s words and deeds are congruent. Such people live by a clear set of values and can be trusted to fulfil promises.

Research looking at over 200 companies across six industries has shown that leaders who possess both qualities are able to get better results from the implementation of Lean Six Sigma in the workplace. It is essential that leaders remain true to self, but over and above that, they must be seen to walk the talk.

Successful leaders combine the right skills with a comprehensive knowledge of Lean Six Sigma. At Juran, we are committed to continuous improvement for your team and business. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.