4.2 Balancing leadership and participation

Distinct leadership is an indispensable precondition for successful operation of an internal QMS but, as already underlined, even the best system will not work without commitment of members of the organisation. The decisive point therefore is to find the right balance between leadership and participation. Successful quality management needs counter-flow processes – a combination of top-down and bottom-up initiatives.

The most appropriate and promising approach seems to be management by objectives (MBO) – setting strategic objectives by senior management after consultation with the main stakeholders, and joint agreement on concrete objectives in conformity with the overall strategy for each organisational unit and staff members. Daily activities are self-guided, but performance measurements will check whether staff members and units have achieved the agreed objectives. The MBO concept strengthens decentralised responsibilities, an important precondition for staff to be able to identify with the institution and commit themselves to quality.

Commitment of the senior management team (especially the chief executive or head teacher) to quality, and their active participation (as role models) in quality-related activities, is a key factor for balancing leadership and participation, as the following examples show:

  1. one member of the senior management team is put in charge of quality management and the quality manager reports directly to this person;

  2. senior management appoints the quality manager and quality officers and invites staff members to participate in the quality team;

  3. senior management provides both human and financial resources for quality management activities;

  4. the senior management team supports efforts to improve quality and acts as role models of effective agents of change.

Active involvement of employees, in addition to their leaders, ensures that quality management activities, changes – corrective and improvement actions – will be carried out at each level of the organisational hierarchy, boosting the staff’s commitment to the institution and its continuous development towards better quality. It is senior management’s task to create appropriate conditions for active participation of employees, which include:

  1. promoting shared values, defining clear responsibilities and raising awareness of quality objectives and targets;

  2. involving employees in setting objectives and targets for better quality;

  3. continuous and credible information and communication activities (see Section 4.3);

  4. creating an atmosphere of open and honest dialogue and trust (see Box 30).

Employees do not always automatically grant their active participation and may need motivation and stimulation. Empowerment is an effective tool, which means delegating certain responsibilities and authority to employees, enabling them to enjoy autonomy, determine themselves how to do their jobs, and make their own decisions in specific work-related situations. Empowerment counterbalances leadership and helps employees to take ownership of their tasks. The main operations for empowering employees may be the following:

  1. a decentralised governance structure;

  2. definition of clear process-related responsibilities (see Section 4.4);

  3. a clearly-defined voice for employees in decision-making processes;

  4. an internal reward and recognition system for deserving employees (see Box 29).


Box 29. An internal reward and recognition system

An internal reward and recognition system to acknowledge achievement of quality objectives can motivate employees to strengthen their engagement in quality-oriented activities. Recognition comes best when it follows immediately after creditable action the employee has performed. Good performers should be recognised as such in person in front of staff and senior management. Information on recognition should be disseminated widely using different communication media.



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4.2 Balancing leadership and participation

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