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Wayne Williams: What it's like to work for a legend

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Modern Tire Dealer columnist Wayne Williams worked for American racing and tire industry icon Parnelli Jones for more than 20 years. He looks back at that experience for leadership lessons that apply to today’s workplace.

Williams says the Leader-Member Exchange Theory views interactions as a fair exchange where the leader provides certain benefits beyond a paycheck, such as guidance, advice and support. In exchange, followers give the leader respect, cooperation, commitment to the task and good performance. In other words, says Williams, the relationship and interaction between leaders and followers is more transformational than transactional.

“This was typical of the relationships at Parnelli Jones, the company, as a result of Jones, the man. Winning and great performance was expected. Expectation levels were high as a result of his passion for winning, which was demonstrated by his racing achievements, and also as a result of the individuals Jones partnered with and placed faith in to oversee and run the company. This winning attitude permeated all divisions of the company: corporate, wholesale, retail and race tire.”

Williams says he and other employees experienced a combination of Jones’ personality and leadership style that was transformational. The leadership style enabled employees to grow Parnelli Jones’ company from a race tire division to a retail network of more than 50 locations and multiple warehouses.

Transformational leadership works today, says Williams. Starbucks is a prime example. “Think about it; they transformed a cup of coffee…a cup of coffee! The opportunities to be transformational in our industry abound.”

More on Parnelli Jones and business opportunities are in Williams’ latest Counter Intelligence column, “I worked for a legend,” in the August print or digital edition of Modern Tire Dealer, or online.

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