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Advancing the quality profession through leadership

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Published: 15 Nov 2017

Aerospace company Leonardo is sponsoring the Leadership Award in the CQI’s inaugural International Quality Awards. Head of quality Gary Illingworth, CQP FCQI, explores the difference between leadership and management

In today’s ever changing, competitive and demanding business space, strong and agile leadership is vital in ensuring we maintain a competitive advantage for a successful and sustainable business. This is also true for the various functions that are at the heart of all business success, not least within the quality assurance function at Leonardo in the UK.

When the opportunity presented itself to sponsor the CQI International Quality Award for Leadership, via the CQI Corporate Partnership programme, we felt it was an ideal platform to recognise and understand leadership within the wider quality professional community, external to Leonardo and the Defence Industry.

Having supported the judging of the Leadership Award submissions, it has been an extremely rewarding and educational experience to see how the various aspects of leadership developed within various businesses internationally, and the impact it has had on their respective business success.

Management versus leadership

Leadership, when done well, will make an enormous difference to all aspects of a business and should be simple, agile and bring the whole business together under a common purpose. This will ensure engagement and support at all levels within the business. Everybody has the potential to make a valuable contribution that makes a significant impact.

That said, we need to be clear. In my opinion, management and leadership are quite often confused and overlapped. I believe they are very different, albeit equally important within any business.

Management is about overseeing a group or individuals to ensure they are proactive in their personal and career development; ensuring task and project delivery; providing general and flexible business support, value added business improvement; and generally delivering and supporting the business plans and day-to-day requirements of what needs to be done — in short the “day job”.

Leadership is far more subtle and will look to define, very clearly at all business levels, strategic direction and planning, including business values and behaviours. Strong leadership will also make it obvious in a business ‘what’ needs to be done and ‘when’, as doing your very best and working hard at the wrong thing will not help the business (or you) succeed. Strong Leadership will enable all employees to know what to do and how to behave and react when buried in the day job, working against tight deadlines with difficult requirements (and customers) to be managed.

Leadership should also be lived and demonstrated at all business levels so that, particularly behaviours and values, are part of the business fabric and continually demonstrated as being important and integral to the business DNA. This combined and collective approach will also help foster the business culture into one that is aligned and focussed with everyone heading in the same direction and contributing.

It should also be noted that no matter which level we operate within the business, or what role we undertake, we each have an obligation and commitment to provide leadership because, without doubt, someone relies on what we do, how we do it and in what manner it is done.

In short, the difference between management and leadership can be described as:

Management: Helping people to climb the ladder

Leadership: Knowing what wall to put the ladder against.

Leadership within quality at Leonardo in the UK

Leadership is equally important at the quality function level and needs to have links upwards to ensure alignment with the overall business strategy. This helps to ensure such strategy cascades downwards effectively, through personal objectives and improvement plans, to all levels within the quality team. Success is everyone involved and aligned with a common understanding of what to do and how to do it.

A quality three-year improvement plan has been developed, which addresses Performance, Process/Tools and People. Those areas are underpinned and enhanced by the Leonardo values and behaviours to collectively become the overall improvement plan for the Quality Function. Each individual action item within the three-year plan have been assigned individual management leadership and supporting resource and has been cascaded throughout the team through personal objectives. Progress is collectively reviewed on a monthly basis and communicated at team briefs along with any appropriate additional recovery actions.

Why leadership is important to me

Leadership is important to me in my role as head of quality at Leonardo in the UK. It is very simple in that I take pride in doing an excellent job for all those around me. I can only do this if I know what to do and how things should be done to the collective benefit of the business, its customers and stakeholders. This also enables me to complete the leadership chain and provide clarity to those who I work with and support me. Most importantly, this includes the values and behaviours that are expected as part of the Leonardo business culture.

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