Be the Leader They Want to Follow

In today’s complex and fast paces trucking and transportation arena, leadership is shifting from the top down to the inside out. Business leaders across the company are embracing corporate values and empowering the internal teams to do the same.

By building a strong foundation of values that supports everything from communications to hiring decisions, leaders are no longer a singularity in driving the mission of the company. A collective effort is key with leadership that has embraced the qualities that build on that effort.

Leaders are finding that employees are the number one asset, and they are on a mission to be the leader that their employees want to follow. But what does that mean? Let’s break it down.

When it comes to leadership and trust, character matters. Author, Bill George has captured some authentic qualities leading to successful leadership in a recent article for Forbes Magazine.

5 Key Qualities for Good Leadership

Authentic leaders demonstrate these five qualities:

  • Understanding their purpose
  • Practicing solid values
  • Leading with heart
  • Establishing connected relationships
  • Demonstrating self-discipline

While these qualities are undeniable in helping to create trust and connection, the word authentic can cause some confusion. Authenticity is not meant to be an example of following a personal authenticity especially if it translates to negativity.

Authenticity in leadership should represent integrity of character that enables accessibility and connection with the internal teams including truck drivers, operations, and administration.

The Forbes article went on to address the mischaracterization of authenticity and clarify as such with the following points:

Authentic leadership is built on your character, not your style. My mentor Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is character. It is not just a superficial question of style. It has to do with who we are as human beings and the forces that shaped us. Style is the outward manifestation of one’s authentic leadership, not one’s inner self. To become authentic leaders, people must adopt flexible styles that fit the situation and capabilities of their teammates.

At times, authentic leaders are coaches and mentors, inspiring others and empowering their teammates to lead through the most important tasks without a great deal of supervision. At other times, authentic leaders must make very difficult decisions, terminating people and going against the will of the majority, as required to meet the situational imperative. These difficult actions can be taken while still retaining their authenticity.

Authentic leaders are real and genuine. You cannot “fake it till you make it” by putting on a show as a leader or being a chameleon in your style. People sense very quickly who is authentic and who is not. Some leaders may pull it off for a while, but ultimately, they will not gain the trust of their teammates, especially when dealing with difficult situations. The widespread adoption of LinkedIn, Google, and increasingly networked communities means that every leader has the informal equivalent of a “Yelp” score that will come to light. If people see their leaders as trustworthy and willing to learn, followers will respond very positively to requests for help in getting through difficult times.

Authentic leaders are constantly growing. They do not have a rigid view of themselves and their leadership. Becoming authentic is a developmental state that enables leaders to progress through multiple roles, as they learn and grow from their experiences. Like superior performances in athletics or music, becoming an authentic leader requires years of practice in challenging situations.

Authentic leaders match their behavior to their context, an essential part of emotional intelligence (EQ). They do not burst out with whatever they may be thinking or feeling. Rather, they exhibit self-monitoring, understand how they are being perceived, and use emotional intelligence (EQ) to communicate effectively.

Authentic leaders are not perfect, nor do they try to be. They make mistakes, but they are willing to admit their errors and learn from them. They know how to ask others for help. Nor are authentic leaders always humble or modest. It takes a great deal of self-confidence to lead through very difficult situations.

Authentic leaders are sensitive to the needs of others. One author has postulated, and I paraphrase, “What if your real self is a jerk?” People are not born as jerks, nor does this behavior reflect their authentic selves. Rather, these individuals likely had very negative experiences early in their lives that cause them to have difficulty in managing their anger, in part because they feel like victims or feel inadequate.

What it all says is that leadership is developed in the context of character, and that character is critical when the aim is to connect with individuals who will then play a role in making the company and the leader successful. Good leadership can also curtail negative behavior within the workforce without much effort. If leadership is intentional and built on a strong foundation of values, toxic behavior will not be allowed to grow or fester.

Addressing a Toxic Environment with Values

While we understand that a strong culture is imperative for a strong brand especially in the very competitive trucking industry, a healthy culture should never be taken for granted. A toxic environment can be nurtured by just a single person which is why it is important to have a thorough onboarding to set clear expectations and to employ immediate consequences for toxic behavior before it can escalate and spread.

It’s also important to understand that a toxic culture cannot exist if toxic people are not allowed to foster it. This is why a value-based approach to recruiting is a key component when teaming out the organization and is especially important as you build a senior leadership group. — CEO Coach, Mike Myatt

A toxic work environment can only exist where a lack of trust and respect are pervasive. Therefore, it is critical to have strong leadership that can set the example through consistent communications, accessibility, and a strong foundation of values that everyone understands and embraces. Toxic personalities can be detrimental to the productivity and morale of the company and should be addressed in real-time. Mike Myatt suggests the following:

1. Don’t get sucked down into the toxicity – it’s bad for your health.

2. Assess whether or not there’s anything you can realistically contribute to making an impactful change and do it.

3. Do nothing. If you choose this option, you have the certainty ongoing distrust of the rest of the company who is most impacted by the toxicity.

In most cases doing nothing will be reflected back on the leadership in a negative way.

I’ve often said that leadership not accountable to its people, will eventually be held accountable by its people. — CEO Coach, Mike Myatt

The good news is that a human-centered approach to leadership is becoming predominant in business today. Companies are recognized for their culture which is reflected in their ability to retain staff, attract talent and increase performance. Additionally, employees are seeing the potential based on empowerment to build a better culture. Following a leader that demonstrates an honest and accessible character with sincere communications that says, “we are in this together” can be the most valuable business strategy there is.


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SmartWay Transport PartnerIdaho Private 100 Award WinnerTransportation Intermediaries Association MemberMcleod SoftwareIdaho Trucking Association MemberWomen in Trucking Member