For 2019 the focus of this series will be on the personal development and growth of dealership leaders, especially those who are in new roles that require more leadership skills. 

Last year our challenge to readers was making 2018 “The Year of Human Capital Investment” — the hiring, developing and managing people that are essential to a successful farm equipment dealership. For 2019 we shift focus from developing everyone to developing you: the leaders — the CEOs, owners/operators and other executives who are ultimately responsible for the dealership.

The lessons we share should apply to any sized dealership. Leaders of smaller dealership may face different challenges but the need to lead is as significant part of the dealership’s success as in a very large, 20-plus store dealership. Maybe even more significant. Whether you’re leading an organization of 30 people or 300, you’ll be more successful by growing your ability to lead. Leadership is an acquired skill. That is what the service academies like West Point and Annapolis do — they train leaders.

Leadership is Different than Management

There is a clear difference between management and leadership, even if the definitions vary among different management gurus. You can read about the differences in:

  •  Peter Drucker’s “On Leadership”
  • John Kotter “Management Is (Still) Not Leadership” and
  • Warren Bennis’ “On Becoming a Leader”

One thing is clear in the leadership vs. management issue, though: strong leadership and strong management are necessary for excellent performance. You are both a manager and a leader.

As our industry becomes more technical, digital and connected, the value added comes increasingly from the knowledge of people and not only their hands or time on the job. Thus, management and leadership aren’t easily separated. People look to their leaders/managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define a purpose for them.  And you must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

The simplest definition of the differences is Drucker’s. “Managers do things right; Leaders do the right things.”

Managers make sure that the tactical, daily functions in a dealership are done well and targets are achieved. Leaders look over the horizon to address strategic issues like investment choices, process development and developing future leaders. Leaders foster the culture of the organization.

Kotter explains the differences this way.

  • Management is a systematic way of making people and technology work proficiently.
  • Leadership is creating those systems and looking for opportunities to improve.

Bennis composed a list of the differences:

— The manager administers; the leader innovates.

— The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

— The manager maintains; the leader develops.

— The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

— The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

— The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

— The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

— The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

— The manager imitates; the leader originates.

— The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

— The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

— The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Leaders succeed when they develop and coach other leaders. The ultimate in leadership is to have created leaders who can create other leaders.

So the editorial focus this year is on how you, as a leader, create more leaders. You succeed by hiring, teaching and coaching leadership skills in others.

Sharing Leadership Lessons

In my work with dealer best practice groups, we foster the sharing of good ideas and best practices in leadership and management. Here some previous articles in this series that are based on observations about leadership from successful farm equipment dealers.

  • Challenge Directly & Show You Care Personally” (June 2017) - “Be brutally honest.” That was the advice that a dealer-principal shared at a recent best practice group I lead. This insight got the group talking about how best to achieve good results from employees, colleagues, vendors, etc. His choice of words sparked discussion on if and how to provide feedback, and what to expect in return.
  • Formulate a Short & Simple ‘Tailgate Talk’” (July 2017) - Great leaders simplify their messages. As a dealership leader, are your messages the most powerful? Think of Ronald Reagan, often called the Great Communicator, and some of his famous messages. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” at the Berlin Wall. Or after the Challenger disaster, “They touched the face of God.” The title of his biography by his speech writer Peggy Noonan says it best  — Simply Speaking.
  • 3 Simple Questions to Evaluate your Dealership” (Dec 2016) – Apart from ‘the numbers,’ answer these question for our dealership. 1) How fast do your employees move? 2) Would a farmer’s wife use your bathroom? 3) Does your shop look organized and busy?

We ask you to share your ‘Leadership Lessons.’ What are your experiences and learnings? What examples of good leadership have you seen? What is a good book, podcast or show about leadership that can apply to other readers?

February 2019 Issue Contents