The Impact of Strong Leadership in the Automotive Industry

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A few days ago, we came across a video circulating on Twitter regarding a brawl in a dealership in California. The video is here.

To say that we were both equally shocked and unsurprised would be an understatement. In our last podcast episode Charity and I discussed the problematic culture pervading automotive dealerships throughout our country. I stated:

“How many times have you gone to the desk and, for not having a signature on the paper, they throw the paper at your face? You’re going to tell me that if you’re really bought into creating a customer experience and doing things differently, you’re not going to get your managers to fall in line? Bullshit.”

Committing to Dignity

Recently, I read an incredible description of the mantle of leadership as a “personal commitment to own the dignity of each life in your charge and to guide it with both your heart and your mind. The mantle of leadership serves as a shade covering for the people you lead in good times and as an umbrella to those same people on stormy days.”

Yes, the last few years have been nothing short of a completely wild rollercoaster ridden blindfolded with a loose harness. We are all feeling it! We are all just waiting to see what the next spin, drop, or roll is going to head our direction. But as leaders, you are the ones with the power to control the panic. Your voice, your direction, your experience are what every single employee is relying on. So the question becomes: What kind of leader are you?

You can imagine the tweet thread that followed the video. The stereotypes came rolling out. I am ashamed of the reputation of our industry. I am hellbent on speaking boldly enough that my voice is heard over the raucous, unprofessional behavior that perpetuates these stereotypes.

We need to be better. The world is watching us.

The US Automotive industry directly and unequivocally impacts global economics. We were the ONLY non-financial sector to receive a bailout between 2007-2009. We drive more than $1 Trillion – yes, with a T – into the economy every year. We make up $220 billion in annual tax revenue. We account for 9.6 million jobs! And we are the third-highest investor in R&D behind only pharmaceuticals and medicine.

Your job is not a fallback option!

Stop behaving like it is! We are part of an industry that positively impacts the lives of people on the other side of the world, so act like it. As a child, I had a wood-burning stove in our house. Above the fireplace, on the mantle, my parents kept an ornate candle they had received as a gift in Hawaii. Even though my mom had an uncanny ability to create fires hot enough to open the gates of hell, that candle sat safely on the mantle for years protected from the heat.

Are you protecting your teams from the heat? Are you creating an environment that builds or destroys? How are you working toward a legacy of industry pride and professionalism? We have to be the change we want to see. Not only do we need to rid ourselves of those who would use our industry for their own suspicious purposes, but we also have to expect more from our day-to-day activities.

I don’t know what happened to incite a brawl of that magnitude in the video, but I do know that customers were watching. I do know that no one seems surprised by their behavior. I do know that I’ve never worked in another industry where fights broke out as often as they do in ours.

This is a top-down issue.

You must be the mantle that protects your team from the heat because it’s all around us and it’s not going to get easier.

We must strive to be better leaders and create a culture of professionalism and respect within our industry. Our actions have a direct impact on not just our own teams, but also the global economy and the perception of our industry. We must take ownership of our roles as leaders and guide our teams, protecting them from the heat and fostering an environment of growth and excellence.

Here’s some homework:

Read the book Extreme Ownership and find a way to implement one aspect into your day to day operations. Become the leader you never had and let’s work together to change the stereotypes of our industry. Let’s not be complacent with the status quo. Let’s, instead, work to create a legacy of pride and professionalism within the automotive industry. It is up to us to be the change we want to see and lead by example. It’s up to us to change how people see us:

Herb Anderson/Charity Ann

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