As the world pushes for better leadership, it also pushes for mediocrity within our leaders. We want people to conform to our image of a leader. Education, training, and leadership books contribute not to the emergence of great leaders, but to ensuring that all rising leaders think the same, act the same, and do the same in all situations.  This is not leadership, but management. Many people “lead” groups, large and small, but few people are leaders. In fact, sometimes, the best leader is not the person in the leading position.

The best leadership embraces individuality: for the leader and the people being lead. While conformity is essential in the business world, the great leader will find ways to operate successfully through established policies, procedures, and objectives using unique and innovative methods.  In short, great leaders will operate as expected when needed, but they will also take appropriate risks and seek out opportunities for greater success. What they apply to being a leader seldom is taught in a classroom.

Humility – Great leaders will never ask their team to do something that they are not willing to do themselves. Often, they are out in the trenches alongside their team assisting in the current task.  They are not overseers, but active participants.  They also look for opportunities to give credit to their teams.

Dedication – Great leaders are wholeheartedly dedicated to the team and what they are doing. They care about their people and they are committed to getting the job done.

Wisdom – Leaders will be asked to make decisions, but making wise decisions can be elusive. Wisdom operates when having to make a decision between two good or two bad options, and stand by that decision confidently.

Vision – Many leadership classes will talk extensively on vision, but they seem to fail in getting students to understand the value of communicating vision.  Poor leaders do not have a clear vision, they attach themselves to another person’s vision, or they fail to share the vision with their team.

Diligence – Despite the importance of vision, great leaders understand the need for results. Specifically, they know that diligent application of required tasks each and every day will ensure desired results can be obtained: allowing the team to move forward in the vision.

Responsibility – Want to find out who the real leader is in an organization? Find out who takes responsibility when things go wrong. The best leaders will confidently take responsibility for all matters within their control. If the matter occurs outside their control, they take control until they can find the right person who has responsibility.

Council – Great leaders seek the advice of others – mentors, peers and employees.  They understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They seek advice not as a last hope effort, but regularly for even the most mundane issues.

Customer-driven – Leaders are often asked to be inspiring, but will do leaders get their inspiration: usually from the people they are inspiring.  Leaders are mindful to watch for and seek the inspiration in customers and employees. An idea, suggestion, or opinion can occur in the smallest form and leaders will nurture and grow that into something worth noting.

Quietness – The best leaders are not boisterous, but quiet. They observe, listen, and contemplate; then they speak. When they do speak, they get right to the point. Then they observe and listen again.

Rest – The greatest leaders understand the value of balance and rest.  They understand that the harder you work, the more rest that is required: not just sleep, but play, nutrition, and family. The harder they push their employees, the more great leaders will push to provide balance for those employees.

Management is relatively easy. The hard part is actually being a leader.  While training will push everyone to be a leader, few will actually be successful as leaders and great leaders are a rarity. The traits presented in this article cannot be taught in a book or a classroom, but are intrinsic and developed over time. They require a person who is highly self-aware, always self-improving and willing to make mistakes along the way.


Cloud computing opened the doors to the viability of an Internet of Things (IoT): a concept where everyday objects have network connectivity and can communicate to a central control system or each other. The Internet of Things is a powerful concept in business for achieving faster times to market, operational excellence and improved productivity. With the possibility of 38 billion objects expected to be connected by the year 2020, businesses need to find the means to get their products and services to market quickly, reliably and maintain quality standards.  The concept, Internet of Things, however, only focuses on the physical aspect of the business: the devices, sensors, physical controls and enterprise assets. The next step to real excellence is an Internet of Everything, where a deep integration between things, people, processes and data exist.

Internet of Things is already impacting the workforce. Employees now have access to more data to make real-time decisions and locate materials or resources. Remote access to systems and mobile computing allow a person to access that data or functions faster and from more remote locations. Specially designed sensors on office and manufacturing equipment can create a green environment by controlling the flow of energy and accessing alternative sources of power quickly. The increased use of smartphones and tablets allow personnel to access machines even when a monitor does not come part of the machine. Communication between machines and smartphones can validate security protocols and make communication easier because the machine knows you.

IoT is a business imperative – Business is faced with many issues that must be addressed soon, including legacy automation systems reaching end of life, numerous companies losing intellectual property, unscheduled down times and increase in big data initiatives. These issues and much more can be addressed by looking towards connecting people, processes, data and things through the Internet.

Seeking operational excellence – IoT promises greater control over global operations, standardization of workflows and traceability, improved product quality, compliance to regulations, improved security, real-time monitoring of KPIs at all levels of the business, and faster responses to changes in supply and demand.

Employee engagement – IoT levels the playing field in business, by empowering all employees, despite their position and experience to provide input into products, processes, and decisions.  Employees can become owners of the business, by contributing more and using untapped skills. This benefits the employer as well when key decisions, particularly around customer service, are moved to the front-line. Empowerment comes from seeking out input, providing access to real-time data, or providing a public forum for discussion on company issues.

Empowerment through information – Most managers understand the potential power data has in business. They also know that getting the right data to the right person at the right time is priority for achieving goals. Yet sometimes, the same information in the hands of an unsuspecting person at an opportune time can create untold opportunity for the company. Most companies look to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their high cost, high value employees, while ignoring their low cost, low value employees. IoT provides a platform for every person to shine, if they are given access.

Importance of connectivity – Social media, Internet, mobile computing, and remote access are all based on the need for connectivity. Unfortunately, the current mindset still has a person using a device accessing data over a remote connection. Each object is treated individually rather than as an independent system. IoT treats everything a node which can be connected to any other node in any other combination to deliver the best, most efficient and effective system.

Driven by process – The relevance of all other points becomes void without process. It provides the context for action and adds value when connections between people, data and things are made. Still, the connections made allow the business to understand real-time performance of the processes, allow rapid responses to changes, increase uptime and reduce waste.

The problem with many IoT initiatives is their focus on technology; sometimes at the expense of people, data and processes. Having the current technology on the floor has no value if it does not deliver on expectations without added pressure on the workforce to conform to its use. In truth, the drive to an IoT is likely to be a dead-end if a company goes astray. Though IoT has its benefits, most companies would do better if they empower their people to be smarter rather than acquire smart devices. In other words, why give people a smart phone if you limit their access to making calls only? IoT solutions are only good if the people are empowered to shape the solution.


Continuous improvement is a means by which organizations align their operations to strategic business goals through incremental improvements. Continuous improvement also allows organizations to adapt to changing factors in the marketplace, stakeholder requirements, technology and standards. Continuous improvement is more than a process or set of guiding principles, but a philosophy for the organization to embrace as a collective entity. Continuous improvement requires leadership and teamwork on all levels of the organization and a desire to assessing all strategic areas and leverage the combination of people, processes and data to drive mission-critical business decision. Through improvement initiatives, teams obtain mutual commitment to the business and enhancements to professional development and an increased sense of accomplishment along with organizational progress.

Leaders within the business play key role in establishing a culture of continuous improvement. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs exhibited by a particular group of people. When applied to continuous improvement, the culture is one of learning – where questions and answers are produced at all levels of the organization.  Some indicators for a culture of continuous improvement include curiosity (questions being asked), reflection (continuous review and seeking feedback), tolerance of failure and vulnerability (recognizing that things do not work and making appropriate corrections), use of feedback (using data and assessments), systems thinking (looking holistically at the business).

Leaders within a culture of continuous improvement demonstrate the following characteristics:

Persistence – a leader would hold firm to the value and direction of strategic objectives regardless of the difficulty or opposition to changes in the environment. Leadership needs to be shown on all levels of the organization as it pertains to each opportunity for improvement.

Embrace real change – Leaders drive proactive change which is tangible, quantifiable and critical to the organization

Manage what is measured – Leadership understands what should get measured and how measured results have value; then they use these results to manage operations and drive improvements

Reliance on data – Leaders rely on reports, assessments, feedback and other data to understand the business clearly and identify opportunities for improvement. They use the same data sources to confirm whether improvement initiatives were successful.

Work smart, not more – Leaders understand that success does not come from getting people to do more, but being more effective and efficient in what is already being done.  “Smart work” in continuous improvement means doing small-scale projects, initiating pilot programs, and tracking benefits.

Require agreement – Leaders seek this agreement for all aspects of the improvement initiative, including objectives, parameters and responses to failure. They seek this agreement from sponsors, stakeholders, team members and customers in these matters.

Goal-oriented – Leaders will set objectives with the team, yet give members the freedom to make decisions to achieve objectives.

Trust – A leader must trust the experience, skills and knowledge of each team member, not just in achieving objectives, but providing feedback and driving change. Leaders know how to delegate effectively and are able to reconcile conflicts between team members.

Prioritize – In the ocean of possible improvements a business may have, leaders have the ability to hone in on those ideas which have the greatest value to meeting objectives and deliver better benefits.

Support learning – Leaders learn and they provide opportunities for the people around them to learn. Lessons learned is a common initiative used after a project for the team to understand how they achieved, or did not achieve, project objectives and make corrections for the next project.

Continuous improvement means change, which is typically resisted by employees. Leaders cannot simply drive change in the organization but can create a culture with which the necessary changes are accepted and embrace by entire workforce.  Only with these capabilities can the organization sustain the results of continuous improvement. Great leaders rely heavily on employees to come up with ideas and respond quickly to the best propositions. In a culture of continuous improvement, people seek opportunities to be more effective and efficient in every aspect of the business. In this type of environment, leaders provide priority and direction to those opportunities for the collective good of the workforce as well as the organization.

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents