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Demystifying lean leadership

Torbjørn H. Netland (Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland)
Daryl John Powell (Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet, Trondheim, Norway)
Peter Hines (Lean Research Group, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland)

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

ISSN: 2040-4166

Article publication date: 2 September 2019

Issue publication date: 14 May 2020




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.


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.


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.


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.



Netland, T.H., Powell, D.J. and Hines, P. (2020), "Demystifying lean leadership", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 543-554.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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