Article

What Great Leaders Do

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Sean Wolfington - Also by this author

Take a look at your dealership, think about other places you’ve worked and other organizations you know and ask yourself what is it that fuels their success? Is it market conditions? Inventory mix? Franchise number and type? Number of rooftops? Marketing strategy? While there are many factors that contribute to whether a dealership will thrive or flounder in the industry today, it’s leadership (or lack thereof) that will make or break a store.

Leadership is about implementing new ideas. Whether you’ve been in the business five years or fifty, leaders learn quickly that it’s important to continually grow and educate themselves. They stay flexible and seek to improve themselves and those around them. Leaders set higher standard values than followers. In doing so, they model those values themselves and use charismatic methods to attract people.
A leader in the automotive industry is able to identify and serve the fundamental needs, aspirations and values of the customer. Leaders engage their customers and their stakeholders by: developing a vision, selling the vision, defining the details and leading the change.
 
Developing the vision
 
Leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite both employees and customers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the senior team or may emerge from a broad series of discussions. The important factor is the dealer and the leadership team buy into it completely.

Selling the vision
It’s not enough to create the vision; you have to sell it. Selling the vision isn’t something that happens once and BAM it’s sold. Instead, a leader finds that he or she is constantly selling and reselling the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as few people will immediately buy into a radical vision, however some will join the show much more slowly. The leader takes every opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to own the vision.
 
In order to create followers, the leader has to be very careful in creating trust. The personal integrity of the leader is a critical part of the package they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision.
 
Defining the details
 
To adapt and thrive in the ever-changing automotive industry, the leader is constantly seeking the details to achieve the vision. Some leaders know the way and simply want others to follow them. Others do not have a ready strategy, but will happily lead the exploration of possible routes to success in bringing the vision to life. The details may not be obvious or plotted, but with a
clear vision, the direction will always be known.

Leading the change

The final stage is to remain up-front and central during the action. Leaders are always visible. They show by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave. They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers.
It is their unswerving commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going, particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved. The leader seeks to infect their followers again and again with a high level of commitment to the vision.
 
One of our goals is to help dealers clarify their vision, sell it to those around them and create a tactical plan to move the dealership forward. We leave it to them to lead the charge and as a result, they find themselves selling more cars, making more money and having more fun while the competition is left in the dust.

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