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Are you a leader or a manager?

June 24, 2011
Filed under Dealer Consultants

Leader or manager: do you know which one you are? Chances are good that whether or not you realize it, you are both. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.

Dealer principals and managers hit the ground running every day. Especially in today’s economic climate, you are stretched thin, wearing lots of hats and doing more with fewer resources at your disposal. Managing or leading — which is it, and how do you know? Which will better serve your long-term dealership goals?

Leadership and management must go hand in hand. You cannot survive without managing, for example, your inventory and cash flow. You must manage your employees: training, task assignment and compliance with policies and procedures. What about leading? What is leadership, and how can you exemplify leadership with all your competing priorities?

Leadership is not about adding tasks to your agenda. Leadership is about who you are and how you go about the act of managing. It’s not just about organizing the work; it’s about defining the purpose of that work. It’s not just about maximizing efficiency, but about developing talent and inspiring results. It’s about being a good listener and a keen observer. It’s about showing your team where you want to go and getting them excited about following you.

Some managers are not good leaders, nor are some leaders good managers. For example, at a dealership I visited recently, I toured the parts department. I asked the dealer principal what made his parts manager a good manager. “Well, he gets the job done” he responded. “What is it that he is getting done?” I persisted. “Orders are always done on time; he’s great with the returns, and he knows part numbers like you wouldn’t believe.” As we continued our tour of the parts department, the back room with the hard parts and overstock was tidy. The environment was clean, almost sterile. Sales were steady.

This manager organized daily tasks well, but leading his department was another story. He did not inspire the parts associates to use their creativity, nor did he envision growth. For example, there was not one display in the department that said, “Buy me, take me home!” He did not have ideas for improvement because he was satisfied with the status quo.

As a leader, practice looking beyond what is to what could be. Opening your mind is the first step in generating positive change. Imagining is the first step to making it so. Become a leader as well as a manager.

“Managers have subordinates — leaders have followers.” – Murray Johannsen
“You manage things — you lead people.” — Grace Hopper, US Navy Admiral

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