ASQ Asks About Quality Leaders and Leadership Training

This month, ASQ CEO, Bill Troy asks his assembled group of bloggers, the ASQ Influential Voices group, 2 questions in this latest post. Here is his post:

Here at ASQ we’ve introduced a powerful idea that I think can and should help shape our future.

The idea is this: Every quality professional, a leader.

Like a lot of fundamentally important concepts, this sounds simple and straightforward but needs to be thought out a bit.  In short, we want, need, and expect every one of our members—and indeed,  every person in the quality community—to grow and develop as leaders.

We at ASQ understand and endorse this idea and accept the implicit responsibility to help our members do just that.  You may hear much about leadership, but some—or even many—quality professionals don’t get opportunities to participate in leadership training. For a lot of ASQ members, I am convinced that whatever we provide may be the only leadership training they get.

So what is this connection between leadership and quality, and why is it so important?  Simply put, the quality professional, wherever he or she may be and at whatever level of management, must be a leader to be effective.  The quality professional at work somewhere in the quality field is not an artist alone at the canvas. That professional is bringing insight, tools, principles, and personal example to someone—to some crew, team, or section; to a business unit; or to something even bigger, such as a hospital, a federal agency, or a school system.

This task is going to be bigger than the sole person, perhaps much bigger.  It will involve other people, with all of their complexities, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears.  So whatever our quality professional is working on, it is going to take leadership to get the job done.

Some have made the case recently that quality professionals lack the business skills needed to connect with the C-suite. Others note that quality professionals sometimes lack the “soft skills” needed to make the case for quality outside the quality department. Leadership encompasses all of the above. Business savvy, people skills, and decisive action all are required to get results in the world.

Now I want to hear from you. Do you think you are a quality leader? What kind of leadership training did you receive and was it enough?

So Bill’s 2 questions are:

  • Do you think you are a quality leader?
  • What kind of leadership training did you receive and was it enough?

I Am Tempted To Ask Why 5 Times

But seriously: What is meant by the word Leader?

For there are many types of Leader – IMO. Here is my made-up-in-the-moment two axis elements for a 2 x 2 matrix:

Action Leader, such as a Sergeant leading his troops into battle, or a Marketing staff member leading the New Product Development Team of cross-functional representatives on the assigned task in the overall NPD plan? Real time baby.

Thought Leader, such as those who influence the philosophies and practices of others through their shared thoughts on concepts, models, methods, tools and techniques. Reflective time baby.

I think the Quality effort needs both. IMO.

And just as the gods did not create all men and women to swing from both sides of the plate equally (a baseball metaphor), not all men and women need to be “lefties at the plate” too when that is needed. That’s why the team has various types of diversity. Including the loud – and the quiet – types of action and thought Leaders – and Members.

But First: Why Must Everyone Become a Leader?

Must they?

I’ve been dealing with things like this since the early 1980s when management wanted to “train” their people to be Team Members. Everyone a Team Member. Everyone on a Team. Acting like Team Members. Acting all alike … as if that would solve anything.


What if they don’t want to?

What if they just want to do their job and go home without the imagined and real burdens of being a Team Member or of being a Leader? What if the rewards don’t balance out with the costs – to personal time and/or family life or whatever?

What if they are incapable?

What if the uphill climb represents so much pain without enough gain – pain AND gain being in the eyes of the beholder – that THEY DON’T SEE ENOUGH R for their I?

What then?

Engage them more???

I say: leave people alone, yet inspire them to aspire, enable them to accomplish, and then recognize and reward them as they each would wish.

But don’t coerce them. Ever.

And if someday they change their aspirations ….

An Aside: A Simple Model for Instruction – Training – Learning – Development



Back to the 2 questions.

Do you think you are a quality leader?

Yes – and no.

I’m an Action Leader on most of my consultant engagements, as I plan and lead teams to execute the plan (and adjust as needed). My professional role is different than most, being an external consultant since 1982. I’ve had that role on hundreds of engagements over 32 years.

I’m a Thought Leader in that I publish (using both old school and new school means) and … people read, review and respond. And I’m hired to bring in new thoughts and new ways of approaching “Training” to impact Performance – which often means not doing Training alone, but doing something-else, or several something-elses … and then Training maybe only using Job Aids. Or…

Process re-Design anyone?

What kind of leadership training did you receive and was it enough?

No Formal Training for me – other than the Training I have Designed and Developed for clients. So mostly it’s been via Informal Means – reading others’ thoughts, listening to others … watching others and then reflecting on that in both the near and far term.

Was it enough?

Hmm. That’s really for others to assess.

But the standard answer – “never enough” – needs to be balanced with specifying “what kind of training” are we talking about here?

  • Classroom?
  • Coached On-the-Job (OJT)?
  • E-Learning?

Each can have a role in the development – the training – effort.

But any one means alone is not ever enough – no matter how much.


Let’s Help Both People and Their Enterprises Succeed

But let’s not force everyone into a role that they would not prefer.

Let’s “enable” – and “encourage” – but not “expect” in a too demanding manner.


Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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