Moving organizations to the next level challenges dealership executives as they face higher expectations — customer, supplier and employee — as well as the need to compete by anticipating and preparing for industry and demographic changes. These factors, plus the greater scope of mergers and acquisitions, often forces experienced dealership managers to move from their traditional, management heavy responsibilities to a more leadership focused role. This change can be very difficult for even the most experienced executive because there is often a misconception that management and leadership are functionally the same, when in fact, they are fundamentally different.

As stated in George Russell’s January 2019 People & Profit: Leadership Lessons article:

Managers make sure that tactical, daily functions in a dealership are done well and targets 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.”

In many situations, the organization needs us to be managers AND leaders. Where the problem lies is that often our leadership skills have not been developed as strongly as our managerial skills, so we revert to what we know best — the managerial skills.

In order to be an effective dealership leader, you have to first understand what is expected from a leader. Understanding and implementing the fundamentals of leadership energizes and enables any organization to grow synergistically. We call this the “blocking and tackling of leadership.” Let’s start to examine these fundamentals in detail.

Leadership skills are deployed in these 6 classical practices according to Harvard Business Review authors Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville. These practices are:

  1. Uniting people around an exciting aspirational vision.
  2. Building a strategy for achieving the vision by making choices about what and what not to do.
  3. Attracting and developing the best possible talent to implement the strategy.
  4. Relentlessly focusing on results in the context of this strategy.
  5. Creating ongoing innovation that will help reinvent the vision and strategy 
  6. "Leading yourself": Knowing and growing yourself so you can most effectively lead others and carry out these practices.

In future articles, we’ll examine how to apply specific techniques and approaches for growing all these leadership practices while complementing your existing managerial skills. In this article, we’ll address Number One: Uniting people around an exciting aspirational vision.

Many but not all dealerships have a vision statement listed in their employee handbook, displayed on their corporate websites and posted within their dealerships — and this is often where a corporate vision stops. To be relevant and important, a vision statement should communicate the leadership’s description of the future, where a leader wants the company to be — and in what time frame. Once the vision is crafted, it should be communicated in a way that is constantly reinforced in daily activities and in every planning exercise — tactical and strategic. The key to successfully engaging a vision statement is to have the entire organization involved, embracing and working to the statement’s success. Having your employees embrace, believe and endorse the vision leverages the leader’s ability to implement the designed strategy and achieve the vision.

The consequences of not having total commitment from your organization is that the vision will eventually be lost in translation, and lack of actions will set the company back from achieving its goals.

The organization needs to know where it’s going, what the company going to achieve and on what timeline. Each employee must be able to state this. Once the vision is understood and accepted, it is easier to design, delegate and empower the employees to specific actions that you as leaders can be assured will be followed.

Here are some techniques and approaches for uniting people around an exciting aspirational vision:

  1. Understand the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement.
    1. A vision statement is designed for employees to understand the leadership’s dream and passion for the company—i.e., the 3-5-10-20 year plan.
    2. A mission statement states what you do as an organization.
  2. Keep the vision statement very basic — the strategic plan will get into the details.
  3. Once designed, communicate, communicate and communicate. Obtaining an organization’s buy-in is key as to how quickly leaders will achieve the vision.
  4. Reinforce in daily activities and strategic planning.

Remember, if you have a vision statement, make sure you have communicated to all and reinforced it on continual basis. If you do not, dream a little and develop one.


Related Content:
People & Profit: Leadership Lessons — Growing as a Leader


Ashkenas, R., & Manville, B. (2018, November 7). The Fundamentals of Leadership Still Haven't Changed.            Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: