The Ten ISO 9001 Leadership Responsibilities in ISO 9001

When I first started working with Quality Management Systems nearly 20 years ago, it was very much a “certificate chase”.

I remember getting my hands on a a bunch of really useful templates, sitting in a conference room and adjusting them to fit the organization I was working for….

…. no true collaboration

…. no engagement in the process from line-level personnel

…. no plan for buy-in

…. no true top leadership involvement

….just three of us in a conference room hacking together a bunch of documents until we had a fully documented quality management system!

To be clear…. the company was a good one. There were no bad intentions. That’s just the way it was often done back then.

However, times have changed, and for the better.

Today, much more is expected, particularly when it comes to leadership and commitment in ISO 9001.

I can tell you not only from my own experience but also the experiences from consulting businesses all over the country – a quality management system will never perform to it’s potential without management living up to the required leadership commitment.

So what are the leadership commitment responsibilities when it comes to ISO 9001 quality management system. Here you go….

The 10 ISO 9001 Leadership Responsibilities

–ƒ‹‰ƒ……‘—–ƒ„‹Ž‹–›ˆ‘”–ŠISO 9001 Leadership Responsibilities‡‡ˆˆ‡…–‹˜‡‡•


Leadership is accountable for making sure the quality management system is effective – meaning the objectives of the system are being met.

Establishing Policy and Objectives

Leadership develops the quality policy (a statement that describes how the company views quality, and how they go about achieving it)….and quality objectives which are the measurable goals for quality management.

The quality policy and quality objectives are linked in that the achievement of the quality objectives leads to the achievement of the quality policy. It’s leadership’s responsibility to make sure this alignment has been created.

If the quality objectives, for example, have all been achieved but the reality of the organization doesn’t reflect the quality policy – there is a lack of alignment.

Business Process Integration

Too often, quality management system activity is considered to be “extra work” instead of the “the way we work”. This is because the requirements haven’t truly become part of the business processes.

If you’ve ever been part of a mad scramble trying to catch up on a year’s worth of “ISO stuff” in preparation for an upcoming audit – this responsibility is not being met.

Promoting the Process Approach

If you’ve ready my article What is a Quality Management System Anyway?”, you are familiar with the process approach. When all personnel have a process mindset, continuous improvement becomes much easier. It’s one of management responsibilities to promote this mindset throughout the organization.

Promoting Risk Based thinking

Being proactive is the key in quality management systems like ISO 9001. Risk-based thinking is a critical element to end the cycle of reaction. It simply means that personnel, during the daily work within their process(es) view potential problems and asks themselves “what could go wrong” and “how bad would it be if it did?”. It’s leadership’s responsibility to promote this thinking and prioritize risk management accordingly.

Providing Resources

Leadership is responsible for making sure each process has the resources required to operate effectively (to meet it’s goals). Resources include:

  • People
  • Work Environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Monitoring and Measuring Equipment
  • Organizational Knowledge

Communicating the Importance of the QMS

The reason companies implement quality management systems is to create customer satisfaction more effectively. Often time this meaning gets lost among the seemingly urgent tasks of the day. It is critical for leadership to consistently communicate why the QMS is important and the consequences for the company and customer of not conforming to the QMS requirements.

Ensuring that the QMS achieves its intended results;

When the quality management system is not achieving it’s goals and objectives, it is up to top management to make sure improvement initiatives are initiated.

Providing direction and support

This is what leadership is all about, right? In order for a quality mangement system to funcion properly, everyone who contributes to it must have the support and direction of leadership. This creates engagement at all levels – which is the key to success.

Promoting improvement‘

Improvement is what happens at the intersection of analysis, evaluation and action. Top management personnel are in the position to direct all three of these activities. It is the responsibility of management to make sure key activities are being analyzed, that the results of the analysis are being evaluated, and actions are put into place to make improvements based on the evaluationˆ

What the ISO 9001 Standard Says….

Here is how ISO 9001 Leadership Responsibilities are outlined in the current version of the standard:

Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system by:

a) taking accountability for the effectiveness of the quality management system;

b) ensuring that the quality policy and quality objectives are established for the quality management system and are compatible with the context and strategic direction of the organization;


c) ensuring the integration of the quality management system requirements into the organization’s business processes;


d) promoting the use of the process approach and risk-based thinking;

e) ensuring that the resources needed for the quality management system are available;

f) communicating the importance of effective quality management and of conforming to the quality management system requirements;


g) ensuring that the quality management system achieves its intended results;

h) engaging, directing and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the quality management system;


i) promoting improvement;

j) supporting other relevant management roles to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their areas of responsibility.


You can purchase the ISO 9001 standard here.

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