Relationship Between TQM and Leadership

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Many quality experts believe that successful management of quality begins at the top of the organization. Studies have argued that effective leadership is the main factor in quality management. Thus, the leadership style of the management is important in determining the effectiveness total quality management (TQM). Studies have further contended that the managers should perform as leadership, which makes leadership and management important for quality and innovation within organizations. Nonetheless, leadership theories have failed to explicitly focus on quality and the role of leaders as managers of quality within the organizations. From business perspective, TQM refers to the system of activities directed toward achieving delighted customers, empowering worker, increasing revenue, and reducing the cost of management. Recently published reviews have defined TQM and concluded that it a management approach responsible for prescribing organizational guidelines for operating and achieving high performance. Recognizing quality as an effective strategy in a highly competitive market has forced businesses to implement programs to enhance the quality of their products and services. Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum introduced the concept of quality management, which focused on the customers, continuous improvement process, constant update, and teamwork. Several studies on the determinants of successful quality program implementation and maintenance show that leadership is an important factor since it modulates the effects of the other factors. Nonetheless, some studies suggest that despite literature in quality management showing that leadership development is important, it has failed to present studies that systematically aim to describe leadership mechanism used to make quality culture implementation simplified (Rehan et al. 6) Thus, the paper aims is to explore link between quality management and leadership from organizational context.

Leadership and Quality Management

            Quality management is a unified method used to achieve and maintain excellent results. Thus, it focuses on continuous improvement, preventing defects, and exceeding the expectations of the customers. Leadership has been described in the literature as a mechanism used to develop organizational culture and creating quality management policies and associated procedures. The description has been attributed to the fact that leadership models promote various dynamics and its probable outcomes assist the teams in to deal with the discomforts related with the change processes and motivate them to improve their skills and quality capability continuously. In 2005, Berson and Linton undertook a research that analyzed the link between leadership style and development of quality business process. Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that leadership styles significantly lead to the quality climate within the research and development departments in the telecommunication industry. On the other hand, Laohavichien et al. (17) aimed to test the influence of leadership on quality improvement of an organization. The findings revealed that leadership had great effect on the infrastructural aspect of quality management. In another empirical study, Alharbi and Yusoff (63) conducted a study that analyzed leadership styles and their connection with quality management initiatives in Saudi Arabian health institutions. The results suggested that leadership styles had a positive influence on quality management practices and organizational practices.

            According to Alharbi and Yusoff (59), quality care system is critical globally and currently, the healthcare sector is keen to ensure quality service provision while trying to manage costs. However, these institutions acknowledge that quality care services are important to remain relevant within the market and meet the needs of various stakeholders. Quality should be the focus of any organization as the main competitive strategy and business practice (Khan 48). The study also recognized that quality management had become an important strategic tool used in achieving superior competitiveness and performance. However, support from the managers is critical in quality management and provision of clear direction which enhances employees’ satisfaction. Consequently, Antonaros (87) argued that leadership involves skills, behaviour, knowledge, and abilities. The researcher further argued that these factors are important for achieving the goals of various quality management practices, which is critical considering the number of businesses struggling to integrate quality system in their practices. In addition, recent studies have contended that leadership traits are essential in achieving the needed quality improvement in an organization. Thus, the commitment and involvement of the top management are necessary to ensure quality improvement within the organization. Alharbi and Yusoff opined that quality improvement and associated strategies implementation depend on a long-term commitment to yield successful outcome (59). Leadership is an important aspect of quality management.  

TQM and Leadership Performance

            Considering the extensive review of both the empirical and conceptual studies, Antonaros (65) denoted that quality has become an essential element in business practices since it determines business’ position in the market. The leadership roles in quality management forms the backbone of developing and implementing organizational improvement strategy. Within an organization, leaders provide unity of purpose and institutional direction. Williams (82) defines quality management as integral to all organizational functions. On the other hand, the author refers to Juran’s 1995 definition of TQM as a system that involves achieving the best output across various business operations: delighting the customers, empowering employees, increasing revenues, and reducing management cost. There are different factors considered important for the implementation of TQM: commitment of the top management; managing quality of the vendors; training and empowering employees; product design; quality measurement and benchmarking; and involvement and satisfaction of the customers. The concept of TQM has witnessed drastic changes, and in the recent studies, researchers have revealed that businesses focus on customers and work to meet various expectations. Hence, TQM is a customer-driven process. In TQM, a leader is a person who inspires using appropriate means and sufficiently competent to influence individuals to achieve organizational goals (Rehan et al. 3) As a sustainability concept, TQM is introduced in organizational culture to support consistently various organizational operations to gain customers’ satisfaction with the assistance of various tools, techniques, and training. TQM relates to both quality management and management of people working within the organization to ensure customer satisfaction at each stage.

            Consequently, leadership is critical in influencing the behaviour of people. From the TQM perspective, leadership involves providing and driving the vision and management strategy based on the participation of all stakeholders. Total quality is achievable through continuous improvement and therefore, it is an outcome of continuous success within the organization. TQM philosophy believes in continuous success. As a result, leadership in TQM thinking needs a continuous cultural change within the organization, but there is need to guide people through the change (Verma 73). Verma also noted that continuous improvement is attainable through motivation of employees working in teams and using productive tools to increase users’ satisfaction (73). A leader in TQM must direct leadership to ensure continuous learning, integration of service-oriented attitude, positive energy, and trust of the people are inclined towards quality service provision. Thus, based on the analysis, the TQM leader and the team responsible for ensuring quality though it is of the essence to ensure that the team’s decisions match organizational quality statement. While analysing the relationship between TQM and leadership, Williams (92) expressed succinctly that effective relationship requires the development of the problem solving and decision-making ability to the lost level through assigning roles. However, there is need to provide adequate resources to train employees on various tools and techniques to fulfill their job requirements. Most researchers have concurred that leadership is vital in each implementation phase especially at the beginning and always starts from the top management. However, studies have also revealed that some principles and practices of TQM may differ from one business to another due to differences like their operations. There is a common finding among the researchers that effective leadership needs to be exhibited by the top management while implementing TQM.

Leadership Effects on TQM Processes

            According to Hirtz, Murray, and Riordan (22), most studies in the field of quality have noted that management is the key to having a successful program: these findings have failed in determining the effects of specific leadership styles on quality performance. From their study, Igbaekemen and Odivwri (5) noted that the current leadership styles encouraged and used across most organizations depend on the TQM concept. Businesses with implemented TQM approach always monitor their business performance through the customers before measuring institutional performance their expectations. For Williams, the consequence of the above finding is that the selection and adoption of appropriate leadership roles would involve both the functional managers and other employees, which influences the subordinate employees to work effectively towards achieving organizational goals (115).  Considering that institutional performance is measured based on the overall corporate entity, TQM leaders need to go further than business operations and involve each employee on the management practices. Thus, the work of each stakeholder should be focused on high quality and low-cost goods and services that meet the needs of the customers. Sadikoglu and Olcay carried research and stated that contrary to the previous traditional management behaviours, managers need to demonstrate more leadership skills to increase the awareness of the employees on TQM adoption and practices (4). Leadership has become important in influencing organizational performance.

            To influence institutional performance through TQM, effective leadership advocates for knowledge management and strategic quality planning within the organization. Leaders in TQM consider business as a system and to achieve the needed objective, effective knowledge, and process management ensure that employees acquire timely, necessary, reliable, accurate, and consistent information (Rehan et al. 2). Through such method, the business is guaranteed by meeting the various benefits of TQM. With the current competition across the global markets, clear leadership and vision are considered important to achieve optimum benefits associated with TQM processes. If TQM is implemented as an effective business approach, a substantial upfront investment of leadership and management time needs to be made to see the returns. With strong leadership, businesses can achieve TQM which makes it easy to attract and retain potential customers for a long business relationship. Many studies have cited that leadership is the main pillar of TQM policy although while implementing the policy, the manager should ensure adequate involving of the main stakeholders. In most cases, transformational leadership style is used to implement TQM since it is based on the visionary power of the management (Verma 15). In addition, transformational leadership is considered the most favourable and suitable method for proper implementation of TQM.

Theoretical Application of TQM in Leadership

            Alharbi and Yusoff while researching on the relationship between TQM and leadership, they revealed quality improvement principles as cited by Deming suggest that leadership is vital for institutional change (61). Although while analysing the subject of leadership, researchers noted that specific leadership types are beneficial for the organization and improvement of performance. Quality management and leadership have common goals: satisfying the employees and improving performance. However, while carrying out their empirical studies, Sadikoglu and Olcay (7) revealed that there is the inadequate effective integration of leadership theory in TQM in literature and research. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also recognized the significance of leadership in quality management citing that it supports businesses to plan and focus on the customer (NIST 37). While developing TQM quality, Deming revealed that customer is the most important element in business process and production is the customer, but the needs of the customers are focused on high quality and low-cost, which makes quality a vital concern for any business. An effective leader and TQM are described based on certain elements: leadership effectiveness, employee and individual involvement, leadership and management commitment, input from the general output, and continuous improvement. From these elements, it is evident that the theoretical application and TQM highlight the significance of its implementation in the business’ leadership process.

            Leadership effectiveness focuses on two crucial dynamics: human and operation elements. The central human objective of a leader’s efficiency is the ability to change the attitude and beliefs of the stakeholders within the organization (Mauch 88). Before the occurrence of the needed change, however, there is a need for people to learn to trust team partners, which require some measures: establishing open communication and empowerment practices. Leadership and management commitment are considered important in overcoming specific resistance associated with change. TQM initiatives depend on the participation of the workers and other stakeholders to be active elements in the business enhancement process. Naturally, TQM initiatives are coined to inspire participative leadership, ensure adequate reduction of bureaucracy levels, enhancing accountability, and transferring some of the leadership roles to non-managers. While arguing from the TQM perspective, Mauch suggested that both employees and managers need to contribute and participate in the various level of the organization to ensure successful development and implementation of quality practices (102). However, Hirtz, Murray, and Riordan (22) argued that leadership literature majorly focuses on the supervisory level, except charismatic and transformation leadership styles. The researchers also contended that most studies suggest that commitment of top business management plays a vital role in quality management processes. Therefore the impact of leadership should be across the organization.

            In any organizational context, problems and uncertainties associated with changes often call for flexible management practices. In such cases, the business requires determined leaders with the ability to inspire the employees to participate in various team efforts and share organizational goals. Essentially, leadership within an organization refers to the ability to influence and facilitate collective efforts to accomplish shared goals (Khan 48). Recent studies have revealed intriguing outcomes associated with theoretical utilization of leadership styles with regards to quality management practices within business organizations considering that few studies stress on the link between leadership and quality management (Khan 57; Antonaros 42). For many years, businesses have tried to implement TQM in their processes to enhance the quality of output. However, empirical studies show achievement of negative results with most authors associating poor performance with the ineffective integration of TQM and leadership (Mauch 126). Most of the current studies underlie the significance of leaders in reshaping the conduct of the workers and establishing suitable standards for thriving quality management practices.


            From the analysis, it can be derived that quality improvement within an organization closely relates to improved efficiency of the stakeholders and business as a whole. However, to achieve quality leadership, the management needs to identify appropriate leadership style. Organizational success to achieve quality control depends on the ability of the top management to influence the attitude and behaviour of the employees. A leader considers people as the critical success factors. Review of various literature pieces also revealed that TQM is the philosophical concept of management that when implemented effectively and efficiently can enhance organizational productivity and profitability. However, successful implementation of TQM commitment from the top management and quality leadership. Based on the TQM concept, quality is viewed regarding people and institutional processes working together to enhance efficiency and profitability. The review also revealed that quality improvement is a continuous process and is essential for long-term retention of customers and achievement of competitive advantage within the market. Therefore, a successful TQM requires total organizational commitment and to achieve this, businesses need to eliminate all boundaries that exist across the departments. An effective leadership style should view TQM as a system that involves supporting employee development and ensuring multichannel communications system.

Works Cited

Alharbi, Mohammad, and Zien R. Yusoff. "Leadership styles, and their relationship with quality management practices in public hospitals in Saudi Arabia." International Journal of Economics and Management Sciences, vol. 5, no. 10, 2012, pp. 59-67,

Antonaros, Richard A. Continuous Quality Improvement, Total Quality Management, and Leadership. PhD dissertation, School of Business and Technology, Capella University, Minneapolis, USA, 2010.

Berson, Yair, and Jonathan D. Linton. "An examination of the relationships between leadership style, quality, and employee satisfaction in R&D environments." R&D Management, vol. 35, no. 1, 2005, pp. 51-60,

Hirtz, Paul D., et al. "The Effects of Leadership on Quality." Engineering Management Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2015, pp. 22-26,

Igbaekemen, G. O., and J. E. Odivwri. "Impact of Leadership Style on Organization Performance: A Critical Literature Review." Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, vol. 5, no. 5, 2015, pp. 1-7,

Khan, Muhammad A. "Evaluating the Deming Management Model of Total Quality in Telecommunication Industry in Pakistan – An Empirical Study." International Journal of Business and Management, vol. 5, no. 9, 2010, pp. 46-59,

Laohavichien, Tipparat, et al. "The Effects of Transformational and Transactional Leadership on Quality Improvement." Quality Management Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2009, pp. 7-24, DOI: 10.1080/10686967.2009.11918223

Mauch, Peter D. Quality Management. Boca Raton: CRC Press, by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, 2010.

NIST. Criteria for Performance Excellence. Gaithersburg, U.S, 2013.

Rehan, Mohammad H., et al. "The Leadership Styles and Quality Management: A Literature Review." Industrial Engineering Letters, vol. 6, no. 5, 2016, pp. 5-10,

Sadikoglu, Esin, and Hilal Olcay. "The Effects of Total Quality Management Practices on Performance and the Reasons of and the Barriers to TQM Practices in Turkey." Advances in Decision Sciences, vol. 2014, 2014, pp. 1-17, DOI: 10.1155/2014/537605

Verma, Manoj K. "Importance of Leadership in Total Quality Management." Vistas of Education, vol. 10, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1-77,

Williams, Chuck. Principles of Management. Boston, MA: Centage Learning, 2016.

January 19, 2024



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