Like many other industries, manufacturing has gone through some amazing changes in the past century. Whether it was electrification in the 1890s, robotic equipment in the 1960s or computer learning in the 2000s, many changes have resulted from great leadership by people who were perceptive and insightful. As Warren Bennis, pioneer in the field of leadership studies, explained, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Being a great manufacturing leader today is a challenge that includes guiding a company through competition for hiring a skilled workforce, coping with supply chain issues and dealing with trade agreements, tariffs and politics. Great leaders have to somehow foresee the future of technologies that will affect their business and the entire industry in ways that were unimagined just a few decades ago.
Nonetheless, you can be a great manufacturing leader with these 7 qualities:
Look for ways to improve and develop new products and workflows. Great manufacturing leaders can envision the value of innovation. After all, disruptions have historically been the catalyst for manufacturers to move forward. Don’t hesitate to look for opportunities and question the way things have always been done. Having and supporting a thought-leader mentality throughout the company encourages creative ideas for optimizing business.
The future may seem vague, but heed market trends. They are harbingers to changing customer demands. Then be willing to make the tough decisions behind strategic plans to align with and capitalize on those changing demands. A strategic plan may involve product development, new technologies, revamped internal workflows, new plants and markets, or alternative supply chains.
Taking advantage of opportunities and innovations should ideally involve multiple departments and teams. A great leader can use diverse teams for a broader view of company-wide processes and to help identify and address company challenges. As teams research and brainstorm solutions, they are more likely to support implementation of ensuing technologies and workflows.
As we see around us daily, there is a deluge of technologies purported to improve just about everything. Despite the tech overload, you should make an effort to sort through the hype and determine which innovation(s) will solve a problem your company has – even if requires a partner’s guidance. A great leader is careful to embrace innovations only when they make sense for the business.
Effective communication is an essential trait for leaders to convey vision, expectations and goals. Relationships are important in business, and honesty, integrity and transparency are important to relationships. A great leader’s communications and actions must have these traits. If these qualities are lacking, others will have difficulty developing trust. In addition, workers cannot in good faith be expected to conform to a higher standard of integrity than their leader.
Culture matters. It’s a great leader’s job to help shape and maintain the appropriate company culture. In addition to ensuring everyone knows the company’s values, every employee in the company should be involved in periodic visioning to keep that culture fresh and relevant.
Connecting with employees and inspiring creativity are important in manufacturing. A great leader seeks out people who are enthusiastic about the company’s products. Employees should be encouraged to think big and contribute to the common vision. Great leaders can inspire trust, easing the misgivings of change-resistive employees and making their technology transition easier.
Setting reasonable expectations for employees engenders success for the entire company. A great leader has the ability to set goals that challenge employees within their capabilities and make the tools available to achieve them. With regular feedback, employees can be empowered to deliver expected results. Every person needs to have goals and be accountable if they are not met.
With these 7 qualities, manufacturing leaders can continue on the path of greatness. They can keep the company engaged, focused and moving in the right direction to achieve a common vision for the future.