Enduring Leadership: How We All Gain From Max Schireson’s Experience

Here are three points of advice to help you stay focused on continuously improving yourself, your people and your business without sacrificing your personal values:

“The key lesson here is to step down from the corner office and spend more time in the field. You will not only learn more about your people and your processes, but you will be able to more effectively influence them as well.”

1. Create a Constancy in Purpose. At home, Schireson found he had a higher calling that created a more purposeful life. While not every leader may feel the same calling, having a purpose for employees can help chief executives achieve the same objective. Brief, but meaningful activities—in Schireson’s case, being there to take care of his kids when they get sick, for example—can have an enduring impact.

2. Adopt a Philosophy of Quality. Just as Deming taught the Japanese decades ago, American consumers can no longer live with the levels of quality they once tolerated. Variation, masquerading as wasteful activity, must be driven out of our businesses. As continuous improvement strategies spread around the globe, it will only make it more difficult for us to compete if we don’t adopt the same principles. By engaging employees in quality improvement activities to find the most common causes of variation, we increase throughput rates, expand capacity—which gives us more time to innovate—and create more jobs.

3. Lead from the “Gemba” (a Japanese term meaning “real place”). Schireson decided his real value to humanity was to lead from home. Being with his children meant more to him than anything else. That’s value-added activity, not waste. By seeing, watching and understanding the needs of his kids, he’ll be able to help influence them going forward, giving real value to them as they become the world’s next generation of leaders.

The key lesson here is not to quit your job and stay home with your family: it’s to step down from the corner office and spend more time in the field. You will not only learn more about your people and your processes, but you will be able to more effectively influence them as well.

(1) Four Days With Dr. Deming (p. 56) (by William Latzko and David Saunders)

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Colin D. Baird is an operational turn-around and leadership consultant and the Managing Partner of Five Why Leaders. An organization that provides service to companies in crisis. He is also a consultant to TBM Consulting Group, a global leader in operational excellence with management consultants on four continents. Colin can be reached at [email protected]