Total Quality Leadership (TQL): What and How Successful Leaders Do It?

Faiez Hassan Seyal | Presented at “3rd International Convention on Quality Control (ICQC-97)” organized by PIQC and EPB held at Karachi, Pakistan from October 7-9, 1997


In the past few years, an increased number of Pakistani companies have been struggling to implement total quality (TQ) initiatives. But we find that most of these TQ initiatives either has fallen apart, or put in the cold storage. To this end, in the past few years, I have been very closely studying a number of companies going through TQ implementation; I have had opportunity to work with, as a consultant. A very few of these companies became successful in TQ implementation, whereas most of those failed. The result suggests that one of the greatest obstacles faced by organizations attempting to implement TQ is the inability of its managers to demonstrate the desired abilities and attitude. Many managers do an excellent job of committing to total quality, involving employees in all aspects of planning and implementation, and providing the training needed to ensure that employees have the necessary skills. But failed to demonstrate the true leadership traits, resulting in the failure.


The paper is not meant to give an approach to implement TQ effort, but provides solid and tested guidelines for the senior managers wanting to implement TQ. These guidelines will provide managers with the necessary skills, attitudes and abilities to become total quality leaders (TQL). The paper is based on our study of the leadership practices of three successful companies including one multinational, implementing TQ.

Few Myths about Leadership?

Before defining the leadership, let’s address a few myths about leadership. Over the years, these myths have grown up. Managers must be aware of these myths and be able to deal with them.

Leaders are Born, not Made

This biggest myth and is used by various managers to justify what they do. The question is, “Are leaders born or made?” Can leadership skills be learned or must they be inherited? This debate has never been settled and probably never will be. There are arguments on both sides of the debate, and this is not likely to change. My personal experience suggests that both sides are partially right. One can be a natural leader; on the other hand, leadership can also be learnt. Leaders are like athletes: some athletes are born with natural ability, while others develop their ability through determination and hard work. Inborn ability, or the lack of it, represents only the starting point. Success from that point forward depends on the individual’s willingness and determination to develop and improve. Some athletes born with tremendous natural ability never live up to their potential. Other athletes with limited natural ability do, through hard work, determination, and continuous improvement, perform beyond their apparent potential. This phenomenon also applies to leadership. Some managers have more natural leadership ability than others. However, regardless of their individual starting points, Managers can become good leaders through education, training, practice, determination, and effort.

Leaders are Rare

While it is true that the great renowned global leaders, e.g. Holy Prophet (PBUH), Quaid-e-Azam, Mother Tressa, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Rosa Park, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, etc. are rare to find, it is also true that many great business leaders also exist. Leaders like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sams Walton of Wal-Mart, Bill Gate of Microsoft, Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company, etc. It is not only true in case of foreign success stories. The fact is that a country like Pakistan is also full of these corporate and individual success stories. But most of these effective leaders spend their careers in virtual anonymity, but they exist in surprisingly large numbers and there may be little or no correlation between their ability to lead and their relative positions in an organization. The best leader in a company may the lowest paid wage earner or may be the person at the top.

Leaders are always Charismatic

Some leaders have charisma and some don’t. This personality trait alone is not the yardstick to measure the leadership abilities. The fact is that some of history’s most renowned leaders have had little or no charisma and some don’t. Correspondingly, some of history’s greatest misleaders have been highly charismatic. Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the best example of the world’s greatest but uncharismatic leader, whereas Adolph Hitler is an example of great misleader who relied almost exclusively on charisma to build a following. Those who place image above substance and try to lead by charisma alone are misleaders, not leaders.

Leaders are always at the Top

The concept of TQ would not work if this myth was true. TQ relies on building teams at all levels in an organization and coaching employees in these teams to be leaders. In reality, the opposite of this myth is often true. Top managers may be the least capable leaders in a company. Leadership is about producing results and causing continual improvement, not about one’s relative position within the organization. Leaders win respect, trust and followership because of their character, not because of their position. “I’m the boss, so do what I say” syndrome is rampant in business and industry. It seems to be the automatic fallback position for managers who don’t know better. Leadership in a TQ setting is about involving and empowering, not manipulating.

Leaders don’t make Mistakes

Making mistake is a natural human phenomenon. All of us make mistakes including all of the great leaders. The only difference is that effective leaders learn from their mistakes. They do not take their mistakes as failures. They ask right question. Learn from their mistakes. Make a thorough commitment and do not repeat those mistakes. Lifelong learning is a must of leaders. One cannot be a good leader without being a good learner. Leaders don’t learn simply for the sake of learning (although to do so is a worthwhile undertaking). Rather, leaders do not waste any opportunity to learn. They learn from their mistakes, from others, from the environment, from the competition, from their peers, from subordinates, from their experiences, from the market, from customers, etc. This means they approach learning form the perspective of what matters most to their organizations.

What is Leadership?

Leadership and management, although both are needed in the modern workplace, are not the same. Managers are necessary, leaders are essential. The difference between manager and leader is outlined in the table below.




copes with day-to-day tasks introduces and manages change
manages current resources creates those resources (i.e. setting the vision)
Follows innovates
focuses on systems and structure focuses on people
relies on motivation inspires
takes the short view takes the long view
asks how and when asks what and why
does things right does the right thing
is very difficult to approach from below is very easy to approach for all
complicates (make it look difficult) things simplifies things
trusts words and figures trusts his people
keeps all final decision delegates important jobs
avoids problems and issues confront problem and issues
is uncomfortable with his team is comfortable with his team
is boastful and fat-headers is modest and humble
is intolerant of open disagreement tolerates open disagreement
sees mistakes as punishable offenses takes it as learning opportunities
is focused on self is focused on corporate culture and people
respects only the top respects everyone
never admits own mistakes admit mistakes openly
prefers memos prefers person to person instead of memos
is an administrator is a coach, problem-solver and cheerleader
takes credit from others gives credit to others
talks against his people defends his people

The value system of a leader is often reflected in his organization’s culture. How leaders treat employees and how employees at all levels interact on a personal basis also contribute to the organizational culture. If leaders treat employees with trust, dignity, and respect, employees will be more likely to treat each other with the same and it will become part of the organization’s culture. On the other hand, if leadership treats employees poorly, employees are likely to follow suit. Both situations, if not changed, will become ingrained as traditions and rituals. These traditions will affect the behavior and actions of employees and will be passed along to one another.

What is Total Quality Leadership (TQL)?

TQ is continuous improvement. Continuous improvement means continuous change. In order to ensure continuous improvement, leader must be able to develop a corporate culture which facilitates continuous change. To attempt the implementation of total quality without creating a quality culture is to invite failure. Organizations in which the prevailing culture is based on orthodox management practices are not likely to succeed in TQ implementation.

Simply speaking, the leadership required to create a TQ culture is TQL. “TQL is the ability to inspire organizational people to make a total, willing, and voluntary commitment to continuously improve work processes, systems and procedures to achieve and maintain corporate excellence.”

It is about applying the principles of leadership in such a way as to continually improve work methods and processes. Leadership for quality is based on the philosophy that continually improving work methods and processes will, in turn, improve quality, cost, productivity, and return on investment. The following impact of TQL practice was seen in organizations, where it exists:

  • positive, “we can do it” attitude in people
  • commitment to corporate vision and goals
  • efficient use of corporate resources
  • high levels of quality and productivity
  • mutually supportive teamwork
  • frequent and open communication
  • no favoritism, no double standards
  • performance based culture
  • decreased costs and decreased prices
  • increased market share
  • well-being of organizational employees and the society
  • improved return on investment

What Successful TQ Leaders Do?

In a competitive and rapidly changing marketplace, companies are constantly involved in the development of strategies for keeping up, staying ahead, and/or setting new directions. Initiating and managing change has become one of the core tasks of the leader’s job. Leader is a person who exhibits the leadership characteristics necessary to play a positive, facilitating role in helping workers and organizations successfully adopt to change on a continual basis. Things are changing. It is a different ball-game now. And the simple management won’t work. If leaders try to manage change the same way as they have managed a stable routine situation, they are going to have real problems. It’s time to switch gears to manage the challenges of a TQ initiative.

At the early stage of TQ implementation, productivity will get hammered form all sides. People may be upset, confused, or demoralized, but the leaders still have to deliver results. TQ is stressful. But it’s during the tough times that people have a chance to really grow, and to prove themselves. This is an opportunity for managers to become a corporate hero. The company really needs leaders now. And the leaders will find that during the TQ times, they can do some remarkable things in the organization. Usually change is under-managed. People up and down the chain of command are frequently too resistive, too reactive, and too closely tied to their old management habits.

Following guidelines are coming from leaders, the TQ Leaders who have become heroes by successfully initiating, handling and implementing TQ efforts in their respective companies. It focuses on the specific leadership steps one can take to give a powerful performance during TQ transition. Here’s how ordinary managers can become leaders, the TQ Leaders.

Be a Change Agent

During times of transition and change, the business is different from usual. For example, if your company is implementing TQ initiative, your responsibilities as a manager or supervisor take on a new dimension. You have to handle your usual day-to-day duties, but also you have to manage the change process. All of a sudden, your job has grown. It’s more complex. You have more bases to cover, plus you will find that some of your old habits and routines in the way you supervise employees just won’t work. Success in this environment required flexibility and adaptability on your part. Look at it this way. If the rate of change in the organization exceeds your own rate of change as a supervisor, you’re going to have some real problems. Keep up with what’s happening around you by changing your approach, your emphasis. Flexibility is one of the keys to being a good change agent. Managers must be willing to initiate the TQ initiative with the assumption that it is a process not an event.

Use Head and Heart, Both

Managers must be conscious of human nature as they work to implement TQ. On an intellectual level, people may understand and even agree with the reason behind a change. But People tend to react to change more on an emotion (hearts) level than on an intellectual (minds) level, at least initially. Therefore, it is important to take the time to deal with the inevitable emotional response that occurs in the early stages of implementation. We all know that individuals have different personalities, temperaments, experiences, backgrounds, fears, etc. leading to different frame of references. Just like the tip of the iceberg, they have different needs and wants.

Every employee looks at organizational change from the standpoint of how he or she personally will be affected. Self-preservation becomes a major concern. There are heavy-duty questions in each person’s mind, such as: Will I get to keep my job? How will my pay and benefits be affected? Will this affect my opportunities for advancement? Will I have a new boss? What will be expected of me now? Until important personal career issues like these have been resolved satisfactorily, employees are too preoccupied with their own situations to focus effectively on their work. Company interests take a back seat to personal interests. Employees worry, gossip, and trade rumors rather than concentrate on their jobs. The longer employees have to go without their personal issues being addressed, the more likely the work group will lose momentum. Managers must get these questions answered in a hurry, so people can get on with business.

Avoid Surprises

The way in which the change is introduced must not haphazard. It should be a careful planned and designed effort. Predictability is important to people. Change is unpredictable. It brings with it the fear of the unknown. Surprising potential resisters will turn them into committed resisters. TQ like any change initiative usually creates a higher level of uncertainty for employees. Managers must manage in such a way that minimize the ambiguity, and clear up the “unknown” as much as possible. In this environment employees usually respond well to hands-on management. Consider whether they need to be supervised in a more structured fashion or not. Make sure that you give your people generous leadership direction. Frame out their duties and assignments in specific terms, rather than leaving things general and vague. Also assign definite deadlines and timetables regarding when work is to be complete. Organizational change creates many distractions, so employees need “focusing” by managers. Clear guidance from the manager helps keep people on track, and reduces the odds, that can show a drop in the productivity.

Get Resistance Out and Respond Quickly and Positively

Managers should expect a certain amount of resistance, at least form some people. It is human nature that employees will not readily embrace the change. The main key to managing resistance effectively is to actually invite it. Get it out into the open. Then, at least, managers are in position to analyze it and work toward overcoming it. Sometimes it is not possible to reduce the resistance by giving subordinates a good understanding of the rationale for the changes. If they understand what the alternatives were, and the tradeoffs that were involved, the better they can buy into the situation. Managers must also stay flexible to change the way they are operating. Managers must ask themselves if they are providing the right role model for subordinates. Up to a point, resistance is not necessarily bad. The resistance to change is like body temperature, it can go too high, or too low. When resistance is too high, there will be casualties – for example, people quit, productivity is crippled, and so forth. If resistance is virtually nonexistent, it may mean your organization is over stabilized and too complacent.

When potential resisters raise questions or express concerns, managers should respond quickly and positively. Making employees wait for the answers magnifies the intensity of their concerns. A quick response can often eliminate the concern before it becomes a problem, and it will show employees that their concerns are considered important. A quick response does not mean a surface-level or inaccurate response made before having all the facts. Rather, it means a response made as soon as it can be made thoroughly and accurately. It is also important to respond positively. Managers must not be offended by or impatient with the questions of potential resisters. A negative attitude toward questions and concerns only serves to magnify them. Getting problems into the open from the outset will allow them to be dealt with. Leaving them aside or ignoring them will guarantee that even little problems become big ones. Managers must allow even the most negative opponents to voice their concerns and objections in open forums. Then these concerns should be answered in an objective, patient, non defensive manner. When the majority of employees accept the change, critical mass will set in and peer pressure will begin to work on the side of Managers.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Positive attitude is focusing on Area of Power (what we have or what we can do) not on Area of Worries (things and issues on which we have no control over). Your attitude as a manager will be a major factor in determining what the climate is within your work group. And your attitude is one of the few things that is totally under your control. Be positive and enthusiastic. The attitude and morale of your subordinates will be favorably influenced. They will perform better, and that makes your job as a supervisor a lot easier. Look at organizational change as a personal challenge. Seek out the opportunities that change presents.

Focus on Short-term Objectives

One way of maximizing effectiveness during TQ effort is to operate with clearly defined goals and objectives. That enables managers to get the best mileage out of their people. An added benefit is that it helps people get their minds off the past and become future-oriented. Managers will get the best results at this stage if they focus intensely on short-term targets. Long-term goal-setting requires more time and effort. Also, people will benefit from seeing the short-range goals achieved. It pumps them up, builds confidence, and restores momentum. Concentrate on quarterly, monthly, and even weekly performance targets. Once these have been established, Managers must do an equally good job of communicating them to the people who will be responsible for their achievements. This calls for a lot of publicity. Keep the spotlight on your short-term goals, and give employees generous feedback regarding progress that is being made toward goal achievement.

Establish Priorities

TQ transition will bring many new pressure points. Some of the company’s priorities will change, and managers will have to integrate those shifting priorities into their own work. There will be many people and problems waiting for manager’s time. Those who make the most noise should not necessarily get the most attention. It’s easy for a manager to end up in a fire-fighting mode, getting side-tracked by low priority issues that waste a lot of time and energy yet have little payoff. The Managers must take pains to keep the priorities clear in the minds of subordinates when they delegate work to them. Careful planning and organizing is essential during time like these. Managers simply may not have enough time and energy to handle everything that comes along. So make sure that managers take care of those things that count the most.

Clarify Jobs and Performance Standards

Work roles will need clarification now. One cannot assume that all employees know exactly where and how to aim their efforts. Even if they don’t ask, even if they are confidently moving in what seems like the right direction, managers must check it out. Managers must meet with each of their team members to redefine job responsibilities. They need to be very specific, especially on issues such as decision-making authority, personal accountability, and reporting requirements. Managers need to make sure all subordinates have a precise understanding of the standards of performance they will be expected to achieve. They will have to help each employee identify what are the critical make-or-break aspects of the job. They also need to set aside time to review this information with the subordinate promptly if there is any observation or a significant performance shortfalls.

Promise Change and Sell it

Part of being a responsible manager is preparing your people for change. The life in the company is going to be different, and people need to know that. There should be change. There will be change and employees probably can sense it, even if you would prefer to think otherwise. So promise change, because that’s a promise you can keep. In fact, managers should take advantage of this opportunity to make some changes that are needed in their part of the organization. Managers need to understand that the work force wants the change, anticipates it, and therefore is poised to adapt more readily than usual. As part of the management team, managers are responsible for helping to “Sell” the change.

Employees should be given a balance view point. Usually there is both some good news and bad news, and both sides of the story should be told. So let people know what they can expect. Give it to them straight. They deserve to know, they can handle it, and you couldn’t fool them for long any way. The lack of commitment to TQ is one of the prime reasons winners are so rare. Building trust and commitment to change is not easy, and the process is something for which many people are not prepared. Successful managers do not take people’s commitment as granted. They approach the development of trust and commitment through extensive communication with the employees.

Raise the Performance Standards

While managers may think that it is most practical now to expect less in terms of how their subordinates perform, they should ask for more. Managers must make their subordinates stretch. The simple rationale behind this is the fact that there simply is more work that needs to be done. Second, in a destabilized work environment, employees usually examine their individual approach to the job, evaluate their careers, and are more open to change their work habits. So managers must grab the opportunity and push them to try harder and to work smarter. Actually, it’s better for employees’ mental health and for company morale if they are extremely busy and don’t have time to spend worrying about the future or talking about the past. The performance standards and the objectives, the manager will set for must be challenging, but not unrealistic. Managers must strive to make their employees successful and must avoid goals that are likely to cause frustration and failure.

Encourage Risk-taking and Initiative

An environment which discourages risk-taking or that punishes employees for ideas that don’t work, will undermine TQ. Well thought out, sincere attempts to make improvements should be recognized and regarded even when they fail. In times of TQ, managers need to push subordinates (and themselves) to demonstrate more initiative and resourcefulness. TQ often make people feel insecure and uncertain. They become less willing to make decisions or take risks. Employees and supervisor alike are inclined to move into holding patterns. Everybody seems to feel more comfortable with doing nothing. Managers may note that employees are more willing to do nothing rather than risk doing wrong. People will be hesitant to embrace new work roles or tackle new assignments if they are uncertain regarding their own ability to make the changes. And sometimes employees become overly cautious and conservative because they lack a good understanding of the standards by which their performance will be judged. Managers need to get the message across to everyone that you will be tolerant of mistakes, but intolerant of inertia. To put it differently, let people know that you don’t expect perfection, but you will require everyone to be independent in thinking, decisive, and action-oriented.

Delegate and Empower

During the TQ implementation, managers must concentrate more and more on effective delegation and empowerment. It can keep managers from spreading too thin and becoming too scattered. In addition, good delegation gives employees a sense of involvement. That positions them to share responsibility for change. Too often managers and supervisors feel little insecure. As a self-protective measure they start to police all activities. Usually it doesn’t work. Employees grow more frustrated and lose their initiatives. Good empowerment lets employees feel more in control of circumstances and events. It adds to their sense of participation, giving them the feeling that they have more choices and more influence. As a result, they are likely to feel better about decisions that are made and will show more commitment in carrying them out.

Create Safe and Supportive Environment

Change is easily accepted by people in a supportive environment. A psychologically safe atmosphere makes people more willing to take risks and experiment new ways of doing things. If employees feel threatened, insecure, or vulnerable, they become unresponsive. They will be reluctant to take risks and be innovative. They become more cautious, tentative and, quite frankly, more likely to fail. Therefore, managers must concentrate on shaping employees’ behavior, instead of judging people’s behavior. Managers must give positive reinforcement to employees as soon as they see their work behavior moving in the right direction, instead of waiting for them to get it perfect. In addition, managers must provide a work environment where they can comfortably practice the new skills or work approach without feeling that they are being critically judged or evaluated by their peers or supervisors. Managers must make it easy for employees to experiment and ask questions without making them feel stupid or incompetent. People can very quickly judge whether or not there’s much safety in trying to do things the new way. They will watch what happens when people fail or fall short of expectations. The atmosphere in the company needs to be encouraging and affirming.

Build and Rebuild Morale

Change sometimes knocks employees’ morale. The quality of work life suffers. There can be a number of reasons for this low morale including, heavier workload, job stress, feelings of insecurity, etc. etc. Sooner, morale problems will become performance problems, due to their half-hearted efforts. Productivity will drop. And then it will become very clear to the management that low morale carries high price. The company can’t afford it. If managers want to boost up morale, they have got to pay attention to their people. They need to make them feel valued by helping them develop a sense of belonging. Give them a worthwhile mission that brings meaning to their day-to-day life routine. Managers need to find opportunities to celebrate the group’s achievements. There are many ways to build employee’ spirit and morale, from formal training and team building efforts to such simple things as contests, T-shirts, parties, slogans, or company athletic teams. Employee attitudes and the overall work climate are important for both tangible and intangible reason.

Provide Additional Training

Nobody likes to fail. If your employees don’t understand what’s going on or if they feel inadequate to cope with the organizational changes from a skills point, they probably will resist the changes. Or they may withhold their best efforts due to feelings of insecurity. To be successful in handling the transition and change, they need to understand the changes and know what’s required of them personally. They will more readily give up the old methodology and established practices if they have the know-how to do things the new way. It is managers’ responsibility to ensure that subordinates get the necessary education and training. Managers must arrange to provide training in the areas of personal mastery, interpersonal skills, communication, team building, conflict management and ethical management.

Reward People

Sometimes people are not in a position to give employees more in terms of tangible rewards. Increases in pay or benefits, for example, may not be possible. But there is no limit to the intangible rewards, managers can provide for subordinates. These non-financial rewards cost company nothing. They represent an excellent way for managers to compensate their people for the extra effort required of them during times of transition and change. Managers must not underestimate the value employees place on simple things such as a word of encouragement or complement. Managers must listen to them and show empathy. Ask their opinions about things. Call them by their name, ask about their family, say thanks when they demonstrate something different, express appreciation for the quality of work, timeliness, initiative, etc. When managers hold meetings, single out individuals in public and give them a word of praise or commendation for good job performance. This kind of recognition has many far-reaching benefits, particularly during periods of change.

Encourage Easy Communication

The TQ program must have whole-hearted support from all. People can either facilitate or can inhibit implementation of TQ. Managers must give people opportunities to state their cases and then must record and deal with all concerns. Managers must be prepared to listen and observe, Try to hear what is being said and observe what is not being said. Employees who are listened to are more likely to participate in changes than those who are not. Frequent, open, communication-preferably face-to-face-is the best strategy.

This is no time to lose touch with people. But it’s easy to do when things are in a bad state. The normal communication channels in the company probably will not be working as well as usual. Rumor will be in high gear. In this time, employees will be hungrier than ever for answers and information. Managers must provide a number of opportunities for employees input, and be a careful listener. They must spend more time with people. Be available to them, ask more questions, get their opinions and reactions to the changes, and maintain more visibility by wandering around and just making it clear that they are an accessible boss. The other part of good communication, of course, is getting the information to people what they want and need. Managers must keep employees updated on a regular basis. Just keeping them posted regarding the fact that you don’t have any new information is meaningful information to them. Strive to be specific and candid. Clear up the rumors and misinformation that clutter the information channels. Managers must realize that if their work group has communication problems. It is almost impossible for managers to over-communicate during times of transition.

Find Problems Don’t Ignore Them

During a TQ effort, a very important part of managers’ job is to find, and then fix the problems which will come up. Often the solution to one problem generates a new set of problems requiring additional solutions. That’s just the way the change process operates. So expect trouble. To do otherwise is to be unrealistic. Problems will be out there, somewhere. If managers are not aware of any, that is even a bigger problem. Managers must look for bad news, not avoid them. They need to know what they are up against. They cannot lead if they are the last one to know. Managers must make it easy for their people to tell them those things they would not necessarily want to hear. Managers must reward people who identify problems and report organizational breakdowns. They must make it clear that the truth is welcome. Diagnosis is the first step toward treatment, so if your employees say there is a problem, take it seriously. They see things which managers, sometimes, cannot see. Their perspective may be even better than managers. Managers instead of looking for proof that the changes are working, must search for evidence that they are not.

Retain Your Good People

During a TQ initiative, employees may consider a destabilized corporate environment threatening to their careers. They get restless and jumpy. Sometimes they grow weary of the uncertainly regarding their job futures, and decide to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Typically they are more willing than usual to consider job opportunities offered by other companies. The worst part of this problem is that ordinarily some of the most talented are the first to go. This can drain the work group of its most capable employees at the very time when they are required more than ever. That is why managers should move quickly to retain their good people. They must do it with the same intensity as in recruiting an outsider to join the company. Managers must love them and tell them that they are required.

Become a Counselor

Managing a work force that is in the TQ transition, can be very difficult. It takes real insight, maturity and skills on the part of the manager, to handle the situation. The employee emotions that managers will typically manage cover a broad spectrum of feelings, for example, anxiety regarding the future, distrust, self-pity, frustration, bitterness, anger, depression, and perhaps even guilt. Managers must be tolerant of these emotional displays, even when some of the hostility gets directed to them. Ordinarily managers are not the real target. They just happen to be within range. Managers must provide opportunities for people to ventilate. They must allow some of their meetings to serve as therapy sessions. Instead of condemning employees or dis-allowing their feelings or arguing, getting upset, or discounting their problems, managers must let people express themselves. It’s part of the “healing process”. Managers need to function more as a teacher, trainer, a mentor, or coach, and not just as a boss.

Reduce the Stress Level

Studies repeatedly show that organizational change dramatically increases the level of job stress for employees. Managers are in a position to help this problem or, if they are not careful, make it even worse. Managers must make an effort to minimize surprises as much as possible. They must give people advance warning about what’s coming. It also helps reduce job stress when managers keep a sense of humor. Bring some fun it the work environment. Even when things are frustrating and aggravating, managers probably can help the situation by poking fun at it. If you allow a sense of play, it can prevent things from getting depressingly serious.

Support the Higher Management

Just as managers need the support of their employees, so do the top management need managers’ backing. Managers must make sure that their work group’s efforts are in alignment with the boss’s goals and objectives. They must be aware of their superior’s priorities, and adjust theirs accordingly. They must be forgiving of errors by higher management. What one considers a mistake may be precisely the right move, or at least the best move under the circumstances. Managers must keep in mind that higher management can see things from a different perspective, and they usually have access to important information that they do not have. One aspect of being a good subordinate is having the guts to report problems to more senior management. Sometimes managers may be better informed than the senior management. Finally, managers must know when to ask for help. They can be a better subordinate if they are not too proud, or too afraid, to let their boss know that they are having trouble. Managers must report the truth, and the truth not the good side of the story, only.

Build Teams

Teamwork is a fundamental element of TQ. A team is a group of people with a common, collective goal. The collective goal aspect of teams is critical. It is well established that teams can out-perform individuals, provided they are properly handled. A team is not just a group of people. A group of people becomes a team when agreement exists as to the team’s mission and members adhere to team ground rules. People in a group do not automatically find ways to work together. A manager who fails to build relationships among its employees will surely become a failure.

How TQ Leaders Do It?

The most important characteristics shared by effective leaders is the ability to inspire and motivate others to make a commitment. Inspiring people is a higher order of human interaction than motivating them. Inspiration means motivation that has been internalized and therefore comes form within employees. Motivated employees commit to the organization’s goals. Inspired employees make those goals their own.

The job title is just a label. Being a “Leader” is a reputation and managers personally have to earn it. There is a tendency for top executives, middle managers, and supervisory personnel to blame their lack of leadership effectiveness on the situation, or on “higher management”. The things managers personally do, or don’t do, determine what caliber leader they will be. Effective leaders do not look alike, talk alike, or even work alike. However, effective leaders do share several common personality traits, which develop inspiration, the main element of TQ Leadership.

Being Role Models

TQ Leaders are committed to both the job as well as the people who must do it. Good leaders demonstrate positive examples at all times. They are good role models. Managers who project a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude will not be effective leaders. In order to inspire employees, managers must be willing to do what they expect of workers, do it better, do it right, and do so consistently. If, for example, dependability is important, Managers must set a consistent example of dependability. If punctuality is important, a manager must set a consistent example of punctuality. In order to be a good leader, a manager must set a consistent example of all characteristics that are important on the job.

Being Ethical

Setting high standards of ethical behavior is an essential task of a manager in a TQ setting. What executives do, what they believe and value, what they reward and whom, are watched, seen, and followed throughout the organization. And nothing is noticed more quickly and considered more significant than a discrepancy between what managers preach and what they expect their associates to practice. Managers must accept that rank does not confer privileges, it entails responsibilities. In addition, they must acknowledge the importance of congruence between deeds and words, between behavior and professed beliefs and values, that we call personal integrity.

Being Good Communicators and Persuasive

TQ Leaders are good communicators. They are willing, patient, skilled listeners. They are also able to communicate their ideas clearly and in a non-threatening manner. They use their communication skills to establish and nurture rapport with employees. Effective leaders have influence with employees and use it in appositive manner. Influence is the art of using power to move people toward a certain end. The power of managers derives form the authority that goes with their jobs and the credibility they establish by being good leaders. Power is useless unless it is converted to influence. Power that is properly, appropriately, and effectively applied becomes positive influence. TQ Leaders are persuasive. Managers who expect people to simply do what they are ordered to do will have limited success. Those who are able to use their communication skills and influence to persuade people to their point of view and to help people make a total, willing, and voluntary commitment to that point of view can have unlimited success.

Building Followership

Managers can be good leaders only if the people they lead will follow them willingly and steadfastly. Followership must be built and maintained. An important point to understand in leading people is the difference between popularity and respect. Long-term followership grows out of respect, not popularity. Good leaders may be popular, but they must be respected. Not all good leaders are popular, but they are all respected. Managers occasionally have to make unpopular decisions. This is a fact of life for leaders, and it is why leadership positions are sometimes described as lonely positions. Making an unpopular decision does not necessarily cause a leader to lose followership. Leaders who make appropriate decisions that are popular in the short run may actually lose followership in the long run. If the long-term consequences of a decision turn out to be detrimental to the team, team members will hold the leader responsible, particularly if the decision was made without considering employees’ input. Leaders build and maintain followership by earning the respect of those they lead.

Staying Self-Disciplined

TQ Leaders develop discipline and use it to set an example. Through self-discipline, leaders avoid negative self-indulgence, inappropriate displays of emotion such as anger, and counterproductive responses to the everyday pressures of the job. Through self-discipline, leaders set and example of handling problems and pressures with equilibrium and a positive attitude.

Being Honest

TQ Leaders are trusted by their employees. This is because they are open, honest, and forthright with other members of the organization and with themselves. They can be depended on to make difficult decisions in unpleasant situations with steadfastness and consistency. In addition, they do not play favorites. Employees want to be sure that they are treated not just well, but as well as all other employees. Fair and equitable treatment of all employees is critical to be a TQ Leader.

Having Credibility

TQ Leaders have credibility. Credibility is established by being knowledgeable, consistent, fair, and impartial in all human interaction; by setting a positive example, and by adhering to the same standards of performance and behavior, as expected of others.

Having Good Stamina

TQ Leaders must have stamina. Frequently they need to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Their hours are likely to be longer and the pressures they face more intense than those of others. Energy, stamina, and good health are important to those who lead.

Being Committed

TQ Leaders have a strong sense of purpose. They know who they are, where they fit in the overall organization, and the contributions their areas of responsibility make to the success of the whole organization. TQL are committed to the goals of the organization, the people they work with, and their own on-going personal and professional development. They are willing to do everything within the limits of the law, professional ethics, and company policy to help their team succeed. They are also steadfast and resolute. People do not follow a person they perceive to be noncommittal.

Taking the Blame and Sharing the Credit

Manages who point the finger of blame kill their employees, even when the employees are at fault. TQ Leaders must be willing to accept responsibility for the performance of people they hope to lead. Correspondingly, when credit is due, leaders must be prepared to spread it around appropriately. Such an unselfish attitude on the part of managers builds trust among employees.


To introduce a TQ effort will involve a major cultural change for everyone. Managers must recognize that their prime role will no longer be one of supervision of their subordinates, but of continually improving the process under their control by demonstrating not only leadership but total quality leadership abilities. Senior managers must demonstrate commitment to change, by showing leadership and setting the example. To do this and to keep dealing with day-to-day problems is far from easy. Management and staff have to be convinced of the benefits of changing the way they behave.

Most organizations and work groups are managed, rather than led. This is a common problem in business, but a particular problem in organizations confronted by total quality effort. At this time, managers have a remarkable “opportunity” to demonstrate leadership. During organizational transitions, when things are confusing and generally destabilized, employees look for leadership. True leadership is the ability to inspire people to make a total, willing, and voluntary commitment to achieve corporate excellence. TQ Leaders overcome resistance to change by leading with examples and establishing an ethical framework. TQ Leaders are committed to both the job to be done and the people who must do it. It’s easy enough for the company to put you in charge, to make you boss. They can give you a title as manager of this or supervisor of that. But the company can’t make you a leader. That’s up to you. If you would like to become successful in implementing TQ, you will have to become more than a leader, a Total Quality Leader.