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Learn About Quality

What is Leadership?

Quality Glossary Definition: Leadership

Leadership is defined as the act of directing and managing a project, group of people, or an organization.

Leadership is not solely the responsibility of those who reside at the higher levels of the hierarchy. Instead, it’s an activity in which anyone who’s interested in the success of an organization can take part. Promoting employee involvement in leadership is an effective way to help build up a company’s success and morale.

There are two main types of leadership:

1. Operational Leadership

  • Ensuring that organizational processes are effectively carried out on a day-to-day basis
  • Monitoring performance
  • Addressing constraints
  • Ensuring that employees understand what is to be done and are provided with the authority, knowledge, and skills to do it

2. Strategic Leadership

  • Define the overall vision and mission of an organization
  • Develop strategies, systems, and structures to achieve the vision and mission
  • Create both technical and social systems that are effectively integrated, and which address the needs of both customers and employees

Management vs Leadership

"Managing" and "leading"—dual activities required to run an organization—are both valuable and necessary, but they differ significantly.

Managers make sure the work gets done; leaders make sure the work gets done differently and better. Managers work within an existing paradigm; leaders help a group of people move from one paradigm to another. Managers focus on doing things right; leaders focus on doing the right things. Managers work hard to maintain improvements; leaders work hard to create improvements. Managers manage processes; leaders lead and develop people.

Organizations need excellent managers as well as excellent leaders. Improvements that aren’t sustained become worthless, and excellent processes that never improve become mediocre over time. In fact, most organizations need people who can both manage and lead. In many organizations the percentage of time spent on each activity, according to one’s role, loosely follows the pattern in Table 1.

Management vs Leadership Activities
Table 1: Management vs Leadership Activities

Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Certification

The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence is a professional and leader who:

  • Leads and champions process-improvement initiatives
  • Facilitates and leads team efforts to establish and monitor customer/supplier relations
  • Supports strategic planning and deployment initiatives
  • Helps develop measurement systems to determine organizational improvement
  • Motivates and evaluates staff
  • Manages projects and human resources
  • Analyzes financial situations
  • Determines and evaluates risk
  • Employs knowledge management tools and techniques in resolving organizational challenges

Leadership Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for leadership resources.


The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook, Fifth Edition

Baldrige For Leaders, 2019-2020: A Leader's Guide to Performance Excellence

Culture Is Everything


Transfer To Transform: Leveraging And Maintaining Knowledge Assets To Enrich Organizational Effectiveness (Quality Progress) Often, thought leaders and executives are so consumed with important organizational drivers, such as revenues, costs, innovative technologies, growth strategies and concepts to achieve higher performance that, unfortunately, they overlook the forest for the trees. Leaders must understand that the most valuable resource to any organization is the people who provide the services to its customers.

Developing Your Key Leadership Skills And Behaviors (Journal for Quality and Participation) The journey to becoming a great leader requires a willingness to identify opportunities for improvement and implement new practices that enhance relationships with employees and increase organizational performance.

Find Your Strength By Leading Yourself First (Journal for Quality and Participation) Strong quality leaders must have many qualities, but the best leaders lead by example. Finding one's purpose in life and always striving for that purpose, whether it be at work or outside of work, is an example that many great leaders project onto the people they lead.


Soar To The Pinnacle Of Leadership Excellence Adil Dalal, author, leadership expert, and past chair of the ASQ Human Development and Leadership Division, presents a framework and process for taking leadership skills to a higher level, which he calls "Sensei Leadership."

Next Generation Quality Leadership Jim Buckman introduces the "Next Generation Quality Leadership" initiative. Led by Buckman Associates, the initiative explores how the body of knowledge on quality is changing as the next generation of quality leaders emerge.

ASQ's Emerging Quality leaders program

Gain operational and strategic leadership skills and more with ASQ's Emerging Quality Leaders Program (EQLP). Using both virtual and on-site learning sessions, individuals develop leadership skills within a select group of rising quality professionals. Our 12-month program accelerates the transfer of executive knowledge, soft skills, and leadership experience to high-potential, mid-level individuals to serve as the next generation of quality and improvement leaders. The benefits of real-world experiences within this program gives participants and their organizations the ability to embrace engaging and thought-provoking challenges in today's competitive markets. See examples of the soft skills covered within the EQLP curriculum or complete an application and begin your leadership journey!

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