Are You a True Leader, or Just in Charge | ADI Agency
Are You a True Leader, or Just in Charge?
What, exactly, is leadership anyway? Whether you’re the head honcho at your trucking or construction equipment dealership, or you’re a manager or someone who wants to become a manager or the Big Boss someday, you know you must be a good leader. But leaders, by definition, have followers. So how can you inspire your team to follow your lead (without turning them into mindless sheep)?
Leadership is not a “thing”
It’s an amalgam of personality traits, interpersonal relationship techniques … that causes another person to trust and respect you.
We’re all different, so it’s no surprise that we exhibit different leadership styles. But, while it’s good to be you, not all leadership styles are equally effective in the workplace. Especially in a dealership environment, where your team probably thinks of themselves as a family more than a workforce, effective leadership styles are critical. (Even more so if, like many dealerships in these industries, some of your employees really are family members.)
The good news is that you can evaluate your current leadership style and modify it if you want to. However, leadership best practices are constantly evolving, just like your dealership itself. So “the best leadership style” is not a static target you can attain, it’s a work in progress. That’s OK, though, because the key to business growth, in general, is forward progress.
Does your style make people want to come work at your dealership, become an engaged contributor to your team, and stick around to help your business grow? That’s really the bottom line. Your ability to lead well determines how well your entire operation functions, and that starts with your people. So let’s look at how you can become the kind of leader people want to join.
Leadership has been studied in great depth by numerous scholars over the years. They’ve looked at the subject from a psychological standpoint as well as a practical standpoint. And everyone has had their own way of summarizing their results. Therefore, you will see leadership styles defined using various names that describe how that type of leader acts. What’s ultimately important is how those actions affect others – your employees, in this case.
Some styles are just plain off-putting
If you’re an autocratic, “my way or the highway” boss who expects everyone to do what they’re told and keep their opinions to themselves, no one will want to work at your dealership. No one worth hiring, anyway, because your business needs smart, diverse thinking in order to fend off the competition and keep growing. Bossiness is not a desirable leadership trait.
Sadly, in surveys, almost half of employees say their company’s top leadership is lousy. They don’t communicate positively, or at all. The problem is that people will follow your lead, whether it’s going in a good direction or not. If you don’t want and openly invite input from others, you won’t get it. And they will take the same close-minded approach with co-workers. Like outright bossiness, “we’ve always done it that way” is a fatal leadership flaw.
Some styles work sometimes
Often, in very small businesses, leaders take a “just get it done” approach. Why not? Everyone is ultra-busy because there are few people doing many things, and you hired great people so why not just leave them alone and let them do their work? This can work well, as long as people have the authority to carry out their assigned responsibilities, but without any kind of overall direction, just where is your dealership headed? You could be spinning like a top instead of forging ahead. Leaders understand that empowerment is great, but it must be tempered with strategic planning and goals.
As a leader, one of your chief goals is to encourage your people to continuously improve, so your dealership can continuously improve. There are two styles that address this, and either can be effective, but not all the time or in all circumstances:
- Transformational leaders push their people to reach for the stars. This approach can work well if your dealership is in major growth mode, but it can feel overwhelming and impossible to succeed otherwise.
- Transactional leaders reward employees for achieving specific goals. As a leader, you might see this as “incentivizing” your people, but in reality, you’re teaching them to do no more than asked. More effective leaders reward innovation and creativity as well as reaching goals.
Leadership styles that attract, inspire and retain great people
Strategic thinking is a critical leadership skill. Your job is to consider the big picture and the future. However, if you only look at the forest you won’t see the individual trees. In other words, day-to-day opportunities and insights can pass you by. The most effective leaders are able to look skyward and forward at the same time. But they know they can’t do it alone.
Effective leaders surround themselves with team members who have more than operational skills. They look to their team for input, and they listen and act on that. They keep everyone informed about business progress, good or bad because everyone has a stake in the outcome. They coach instead of “instruct,” because coaching considers and builds on innate personal strengths to bring out the best in each individual.
This process fosters trust and it inspires because it shows you recognize each person for their unique attributes and ability to contribute to your dealership’s future. And that’s leadership makes people want to join you.