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6 Steps to Great Leadership

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6 Steps to Great Leadership

It was a cold day in early December when our company conducted an all-day leadership seminar in downtown Knoxville, Tenn. We were on the top floor of the highest building and the view was amazing.

Attending the seminar were executives from the medical, retail and financial fields. Attendees included an architect, website developer/owner, and a six-location tire store owner. One could say we had a cross section of America all in one place.

At one point during the day, the attendees were asked what they planned to implement in their respective businesses. When the president of the tire stores spoke, he said, “Your team is your fault.” Most everyone took note of this very wise statement. I am framing this article with that statement in mind.

Here are the six things leaders do to be great leaders — and six things they fail to do that make them poor leaders.

Six things great leaders do

  1. Value people. People are the most valuable natural resource on planet earth. It is no doubt that great leaders recognize this and serve everyone who works for them. I asked a great leader who was a plant manager of 300-plus people in a manufacturing plant a couple of questions about his leadership style. Being able to compete with China in the garment industry while located in the U.S. brought many visitors to the company’s factory. Everyone wanted to see how he did it. At the end of the day, this man had a process for how he interacted and led his people. An actively engaged leader has engaged employees. With more than 70% of American workers disengaged, we need leaders who are more engaged with their employees.
  2. Communicate with their managers and the team. We could spend a lot of time discussing what makes a bad team, but many leaders simply do not convey their expectations the right way to ensure results from their people. Many who communicate fail to communicate the correct way. Since people are different, they need to be communicated with differently.
  3. Know their strengths and weaknesses well. The best leaders are confident and surround themselves with people who have strengths they do not possess. We recently conducted DiSC surveys for a team and found the owner had surrounded himself with five people exactly like himself and only one that was different. Of course, this does not make a very strong team.
  4. Don’t procrastinate as it relates to change. Great leaders embrace change and do it quickly. All people can be and should be developed into greatness until they prove that they are not willing. I know several business owners (most in the tire industry) who refuse to make a change when it is clear that the person is not the right fit for the position they have been given. Most of the time, this created unhappy employees, which created unhappy customers. I am a strong believer in never using the famous catchphrase of Donald Trump; if you do things the right way, you never have to say, “You’re fired,” to anyone. Furthermore, when people leave you they will shake your hand and thank you and protect your relationship in the marketplace as a great place to work.
  5. Take care of themselves and are always learning. I have never met a great leader who never had a mentor and/or a leadership coach to help them become a great leader. Even though good leaders are born, I think anyone can become a great leader through customized situational leadership coaching. I am often amazed when I interview internal and external candidates for a leadership position for my clients how many never have had a professional growth plan. Many are often embarrassed when they cannot name their favorite business book, and if they do, they cannot clearly articulate what they learned most from it.
  6. Look to help others move up within the company. Often a great leader will identify, mentor and recommend their replacement. Bench strength is often overlooked in the tire industry, and many owners settle for a manager who is simply the wrong person for the job.

As for poor leaders, it is important that we understand they are everywhere. American companies are sometimes guilty of placing the wrong person in a leadership position.

For example, a great salesperson does not always make a great leader. They can, however, become great leaders with the proper training.

Six things poor leaders do

  1. Manage people. Let’s face it, people can be led and processes can be managed. Poor leaders many times do not like people and do not want to know what makes them who they are. They only see the mission and forget the person on the mission.
  2. Expect others to know what they are thinking. I have seen many lose their cool with their people. Questioning people who failed their leaders has revealed this: They felt handcuffed by either not knowing what to do or how to do it, or being afraid to do it in fear of the fallout from their managers.
  3. Have a “do as I say, not as I do” leadership style. This always leads to frustration on both sides. Bad leaders do not lead by example. They have a false sense of their leadership abilities and blame others when things do not run smoothly. Remember, “your team is your fault.”
  4. Refuse to change. Why change when you are perfect in your own eyes? Bad leaders see the world through their eyes only and do not listen to wise council and refuse to know their true selves.
  5. Fear learning and often live in the past. Did you know employee engagement is at an all-time low in our country? Many bad leaders have never heard of employee engagement. Leaders need to recognize that each generation has different goals and values. As the millennial workforce comes on board, we must be serious about how we plan to lead the next generation.
  6. Lack vision and bench strength. Bad leaders are often insecure and usually in protection mode trying to protect their positions within the company. They usually take pride in putting others down and making them feel less valuable.

Even though this list could have been longer, these are six that we most often see in the tire and auto repair business. I urge everyone who reads this article to hire a leadership expert to access and coach your team.

It is not as costly as you might think, the return on investment is robust, you will build equity in your business, and your business will gain a competitive advantage in your respective marketplace.   ■

Mike Townsend has a solid track record for helping tire dealers achieve their sales and profit objectives. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (800) 319-8552 or email him at

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