Demystifying lean leadership

Torbjørn H. Netland, Daryl John Powell, Peter Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: There is convincing evidence that companies need a special form of leadership to succeed with lean transformations. The general advice for lean leaders, however, is often obvious or unrealistic. The purpose of this paper is to propose and discuss specific lean leadership practices for top-managers, middle managers and front-line managers. Design/methodology/approach: In this conceptual paper, the authors draw on their rich experience from researching, leading and consulting in lean transformations in a large number of firms. Findings: Leaders must adapt lean leadership practices to their hierarchical levels. This paper provides a framework to understand and debate lean leadership at different levels of the organisational hierarchy. Originality/value: This paper demystifies lean leadership by offering a discussion of specific lean leadership practices at different hierarchical levels. The paper offers a new perspective for researchers studying lean leadership behaviours and contains helpful advice for firms seeking lean transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-554
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Lean Six Sigma
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • Lean leadership
  • Lean management
  • Lean production
  • Lean transformation


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