Everyone craves the opportunity to advance to the next level. Today you are a salesperson on the floor or service advisor in the bay. You have set your sights on the next level and are looking for that opportunity to become the next great sales manager or service manager. One big question remains; “Are you ready to LEAD?” Better yet, what specific actions can you take right now to develop yourself so you set yourself up for success when the time comes?

Too much misinformation has been given through the years when it comes to leading and managing. Management was the buzzword of the day for years. Today people often look at managing in a negative light and say “I am looking for a leader, not a manager”. Hold your horses, Cowboy! While leading and managing are different skill sets, they both have a place and are valuable in achieving long-term success in an individual’s role and the success of the dealership.       

Somewhere along the line faulty information was taught that said “I can only have a leader or a manager so I need to decide which one I want.” Training resources are far more likely to be poured into things that fall into the management category. Keep that up.

It is important to focus on things such as product knowledge, processes to ensure consistency and excellent customer service, procedures, flow, and areas such as safety with all the moving parts and pieces that are at work on a dealership’s lot in a given day. All of those things are crucial and need to be addressed. Of all the attempts people make to define the difference between managing and leading, I think the simplest way to distinguish the two is this:

What’s the Difference?

You manage things (processes, procedures, revenue, expenses, etc.)

You lead people. People don’t want to be thought of as another “thing” on the list to be managed. They want to be led. In survey after survey, the responses all point to the fact that people are looking for a strong leader and are willing to follow them when they arrive.

If you envision becoming that next leader in your organization, let’s look at four areas that you can begin to focus on right now that will develop you into the kind of leader that others can’t wait to follow.

Prepare Yourselflead

Be a continual Learner.

Too often, when an opportunity to advance arises, the candidate gets asked about what he or she has done to develop and prepare for the next level. Far too many times the list of training and development areas that are brought up by the candidate is basically nothing more than a synopsis of all the company led training initiatives that have been provided over a period of time.

While it is great that some dealerships are truly focused on developing their employees, if everything on your list was only what was provided for and paid by the company, there is nothing that stands out from any other candidate who has worked there for the same period of time. Even if your dealership has the best training culture in your market, those areas simply put you on even ground with everyone else. Let’s face it, that is not the mark of a leader.

One of the main reasons a leader must continue learning is to be equipped in order to be able to continue to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared to lead those they are responsible for. What good book have you read lately to develop your skills as a leader and a communicator? What online courses have you taken or local seminars have you been willing to attend on your own time to grow as an individual?

A solid producer may be able to get by on what they know, but a solid leader knows enough to know that they have to always be learning in order to earn the right to continue to lead. If your learning stopped when you achieved your degree, you are not ready to lead. Be brutally honest with yourself about this question. If you need to change some things, then get started now.

Ready for Battle?

Learn to be an Encourager.

Leadership is not about perks and benefits. It is about responsibility. One reason that many individual producers fail at the next level is because they fail to realize the importance of this skill set. Just about every dealership at some point or another can think of a time when they promoted their best salesperson, only to see them fall flat on their face as a sales manager. Many are still scratching their heads and wondering why that happened. That salesperson had the ability to produce tremendous individual results, but helping to encourage others along the way so they can do the same requires learning how to be an encourager.

A strong leader never seeks to leave an encounter with an individual or a group in a way that has them thinking highly of the leader. That is self-serving and goes against everything you should be seeking to develop in your culture. The best leaders focus their energy on ensuring that every time they interact with people, those people leave the interaction thinking better of themselves.

When you do this, you become a leader that people not only want to follow, but will gladly go to battle for and with.

A Culture of Trust

Be Accountable to others.

As a leader, you cannot be accountable for the actions and results of others. However, you can be accountable to them. The word accountability often strikes fear into groups, but that is because it has been used the wrong way so many times. Effective teams that seek to win view accountability as a positive and necessary step of the process. Dictators have warped that term to micromanage, cast blame, and lead through fear. That isn’t what you will learn to do though.

As a growing leader, develop the skill of being accountable to ensure you and your staff are constantly empowered, equipped, and resourced to perform at the highest level. Use mistakes as an opportunity for growth rather than humiliation. Leaders who do this instill a culture of trust among the team, which is the driver of positive accountability.

Learn to Win for the Team

Be Driven to win.

People report to the “boss,” but they follow a leader who has a passionate desire to win. One of the Laws of Leadership shared by John Maxwell in the best seller The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is the Law of Victory. Leaders find a way for the team to win. What is often overlooked in that statement is the word “team”. The best leaders realize that long-term success only comes when the team wins. Leading is more than just getting the best results, but it is about getting the best out of the people you lead.

Develop the skills of being a Learner, Encourager, being Accountable to others, and being Driven to win. In doing so, you set yourself up to become the next great leader in your organization. 

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