The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men

The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people. Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.

W. Edwards Deming, page 248, Out of the Crisis

This is a great quote, from Deming’s classic Out of the Crisis. He continues with the following lines:

Actually, most of this book is involved with leadership. Nearly every page heretofore and hereafter states a principles of good leadership of man and machine or shows an example of good or bad leadership.

I recommend Out of the Crisis for those that are serious about improving management. The book isn’t as easy to read as some management books, but the value within its covers is enormous. Deming’s 14 points for management are meant to help tie together various ideas (they not meant to be complete as a stand alone list). The 14 points were included in Out of the Crisis. He evolved to explaining his management ideas using the system of profound knowledge as a better way to capture the systemic nature of the management system. Dr. Deming’s point number 7 (in his 14 points) was to “Adopt and institute leadership for the management of people, recognizing their different abilities, capabilities, and aspiration.” His quote above explains that leadership was not some idea of being charismatic or commanding or the like but leading a system of people using all the ideas laid out in Out of the Crisis (many of which people don’t usually think of when thinking of leadership – such as using control charts).

Far too many leaders think their role is to hold people accountable. Such thinking shows much that is wrong with those that seek simple answers instead of improvement.

Related: Management and Leadership quotes by Dr. Deming The Best Leadership Is Good ManagementProblems with Management and Business BooksLeadership is the act of making others effective in achieving an aim.The Leader’s Handbook

8 thoughts on “The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men

  1. Guy Farmer

    Thanks for the resource and your perspective John. I really like the idea of leadership being about helping people grow and succeed rather than bossing them around or pointing out their mistakes.

    Reply
  2. Doris

    Good management is always very important. It is not only about having good results. It is about forming your employees. If their are good at their job, they can be more efficient for the hole company. The employees should even be more happy, because they get more respect for doing their jobs.

    Reply
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