Trying to come up with a standard definition of leadership can be a frustrating experience. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines leadership as “the office or position of a leader” or the “capacity to lead”, two explanations that seem to beg the question.

A quick Internet search reveals that definitions of leadership are as numerous as different colored jelly beans. But two quotes I found approach the essence. One is from the sixth U.S. President, John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The other is from Napoleon Bonaparte: “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Both of these perspectives have a timeless quality to them. And that’s a good thing as we try to understand what distinguishes leadership in the Manufacturing 4.0 era.

As this issue of the Journal points out, leadership with M4.0 means that manufacturing executives need to add another layer of competencies to their standard set of financial and operational performance responsibilities. This new layer, which MLC calls digital acumen, includes understanding the potential of advanced technologies to reshape business models; managing people in flatter, more collaborative organizations; and instituting more data-driven decision-making processes.

A number of stories in this issue underscore these requirements. In the article “In Pursuit of Digital Acumen”, MLC’s new leadership survey reveals that manufacturers believe a new leadership model is required for the digital age, but that much preparation and learning about a new approach has yet to be done.

In “Multigenerational Leadership: A Business Requirement in an M4.0 World”, Oracle’s Scott Renner says that with three generations currently occupying the workforce, manufacturers must draw on the strengths of each to be successful. And in “Time for the DataOps Revolution”, Hitachi Ventara’s Sath Rao says that for manufacturers to leverage the power of data, they need the right methodology and organizational alignment.

The bottom line on leadership in the M4.0 era is what John Quincy Adams said about inspiring people to do more. M4.0 gives us the tools to do a lot more and a lot better. Are you inspiring your organization? Write to me at dbrousell@nam.org   M