Leaders Leading LeadersWritten By: Matt Di Iorio
Article Date: 09-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
The future of the industry is in good hands.
In August, I had the good fortune to attend AED's Future Leaders Conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Although the location was great and the program outstanding, the quality of the attendees impressed me most. These are uncertain times for our companies, our industry, and our world. Fortunately, certainty has been found to be an excellent antidote for uncertainty. Leaders from the past, present and, yes, future, are in a unique position to align individual and organizational capacity, values and vision so both can experience some certainty, achieving the success and satisfaction they desire.
The conference was chock full of valuable content, including the perspectives of leadership gurus James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Kouzes and Posner have done a great deal of research on leadership, not the least of which involved the study of characteristics of admired leaders. Results from the 2002 study were: honesty (88 percent), forward-looking (71 percent), competent (66 percent) and inspiring (65 percent). Leaders must be worthy of trust. People will not follow someone whose actions are not consistent with their words.
Great leaders convey a vision of what the organization is destined to accomplish. The ability to inspire commitment demands leasers understand the business and the people in its employ, enabling others to act in accordance with shared vision. Leaders inspire a sense of purpose that affords followers the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to something they feel is important. In essence, leaders are extraordinary at developing leaders.
Armed with this insight, participants at the conference took part in coaching and mentoring role playing orchestrated by Al and Peggy Morgan. The results were as fascinating as they were impressive. Leaders addressed issues ranging from sales managers not reaching quotas to service managers with poor recovery rates. Several told me the experience of leading and being lead was a little uncomfortable and surprisingly real.
Participants took part in case studies, analyzed their own financial ratios and developed plans to address key performance challenges within their companies. As I listened, it occurred to me that each presentation included at least one of Kouzes and Posner's five practices of leadership: Model the way, inspire shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart.
Attendees already seemed to understand that "leadership is a reciprocal process between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow." The aphorism, "we're in a relationship business" applies as much to the employer/employee relationship as to how customers and vendors are treated.
Gregg Burch introduced the group to Robert Fritz, author of "The Path of Least Resistance." In short, he engaged the group in a forward thinking discussion regarding the principles of organizational structure. Fritz's philosophy is based on the following insights:
• Energy moves along the path of least resistance.
• The underlying structure of anything will determine its path of least resistance.
• We can determine new structures.
These principles can be applied to individual, as well as organizational, situations. When we, as leaders, accept the fact that our organizations operate pretty much the way they have been designed to, roles, systems, processes, etc. can be redesigned to create sustainable results for everyone's benefit.
AED Past Presidents Earl Harbaugh, Bob McNutt, Walter Berry, current AED Chairman, Dale Leppo and speaker, Carla LaRoque contributed immeasurably to the success of the conference by lending their wisdom. Mark Harbaugh, Chairman of the Future Leaders Committee, as well as Jim McGinley, Brandon Klein, Stephen Stecklein, Matt Roland and Tom Reynolds put much though into the design of the event. These past, current and future leaders made the conference possible, and in doing so, demonstrated once again that the future of the industry is in good hands.
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