Leadership and Lean Six Sigma: a systematic literature review

Alessandro Laureani*, Jiju Antony

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


The term ‘Lean Six Sigma’ refers to the integration of ‘Lean’ and ‘Six Sigma’ business improvement methodologies, where ‘Lean’ is a process improvement methodology used to deliver products and services better, faster and at a lower cost, while ‘Six Sigma’ is a data-driven methodology used to achieve stable and predictable processes. The concept of ‘Lean Six Sigma’ as an integrated strategy is still in development: since its inception in 2000, a number of academics have developed an integrated approach, while others have focused on a framework for the successful integration of Lean and Six Sigma. Despite becoming the most popular business strategy for deploying continuous improvement, many organisations are struggling to turn Lean Six Sigma into a success, citing lack of leadership, changing business focus, internal resistance and availability of resources as the main impeding factors. The focus of this research was to consolidate the existing knowledge on leadership and Lean Six Sigma, providing a starting point for researchers and practitioners seeking to implement Lean Six Sigma in organisations and offering suggestions for future research. This systematic literature review aims to synthesise, organise and structure the stock of knowledge relating to Lean Six Sigma and leadership. The research is based on a systematic literature review of 179 papers that were published on leadership, Lean and Six Sigma in well-known academic databases in the past 20 years. The key findings of the review show that (1) leadership is a requirement for successful Lean Six Sigma deployment in organisations, and critical to sustaining improvement and (2) Lean Six Sigma is an effective leadership development tool. Leadership is a critical factor for Lean Six Sigma success and there is the need to develop a new model of leadership that encompasses the leadership traits needed for Lean Six Sigma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-81
Number of pages29
JournalTotal Quality Management and Business Excellence
Issue number1-2
Early online date13 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • leadership
  • Lean
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Six Sigma
  • systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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