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The 6 Essential Philosophies of Leadership

Provide your employees with a clear vision and they will support and follow your vision for the long haul.

Chris Saraceno is the Vice President & Partner of the Kelly Automotive Group. Visit kellycar.com.

Leadership comes naturally to some of us, while others have to work to build the skills necessary to lead a group of individuals and forge them into a team. Whether we have sought leadership positions in our dealerships or have simply been promoted to the point where we have authority and influence with our group, our teams want us to be the best leaders we can be. 

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My Theory of 5 mentors and I believe that there are six major leadership philosophies that new leaders must internalize — and experienced leaders should regularly review — to bring out the best results, actions and behaviors in their teams. 

1. Leaders Understand Their Impact

While one of our primary goals is to achieve great results for our dealership, leadership is more than that. Team members rarely quit a company; they quit their leader. The daily decisions about how we conduct ourselves and treat each member on our team will have a dramatic influence that will grow over time. Never lose sight of that fact. When we provide them with a clear vision and they understand we always have their best interest at heart, our teams will support and follow our vision for the long haul.

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2. Leaders Must Lead 

One of the pitfalls some leaders fall into is that of trying to be our team’s friend. Just as we aren’t our children’s friend in their youth or adolescence, most team members want someone to coach, guide and teach them. It’s up to us to provide information that is in alignment with the vision and values of our dealership. 

3. Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Push

While we shouldn’t be seen as taskmasters, we also mustn’t be afraid to push our teams to perform actions or behaviors they might not want to do. When we do this — when we maintain positive pressure to perform — we will support them in achieving feats they might never have thought themselves capable of achieving. This is how we grow as professionals. Leaders who expect little from their team will get exactly that. In this way, we are coaches of our teams — we will work together to attain exceptional results. 

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4. Leaders Must Be Clear

As leaders, it is crucial to set clear, specific daily expectations for our team members to achieve our dealership’s desired results. We shouldn’t expect our team to be able to read our mind to know what we want from them. Guesswork is no way to run our dealership. It is essential to hold our teams, including our team leaders, accountable for the results we’ve all agreed to when they were hired or promoted. 

5. Leaders Give Feedback

Most people need and/or desire consistent feedback from us that they can put into action. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long detailed review; we just want to let them know how they’re doing. A quick, specific conversation or counsel is a wonderful training and teaching tool. By letting them know how they’re performing and comparing it to our agreed-upon expectations, we will achieve better results — while avoiding unnecessary frustration. The best way to beat a bad habit is to catch it before it becomes a habit. By sharing feedback regularly, our team will be able to stay on track to fulfill their mission. Also, never underestimate the power of positive feedback. Let’s not be the “no news is good news” leader; we should let our best team members know how proud we are of them and what they add to the team’s performance. We should always be looking for moments when we catch our team members doing something right. Remember: What gets recognized and rewarded will get repeated. A few moments of our time will mean the world to them, so let’s be generous with our praise!

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6. Leaders Care and Share “Why”

Leadership is about creating positive change and constantly facilitating both short- and long-term growth. Our team members want to know that we value them as individuals; we don’t see them as replaceable cogs in a machine. The best leaders care enough to give them the tools, resources, authority and training to grow, improve and excel. If they need something — equipment, training or just an opportunity to shine — they should know that we’ll do everything we can to get it for them. Great leaders are always searching for ways to constantly improve and are naturally driven to make a difference.

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My mentors and I have found that the best leaders don’t hold the mindset that their teams exist just to do their bidding. It’s just the opposite — great leaders are there to serve their teams. They exist to make sure that the team has everything they need to accomplish their goals, grow as individuals and to become better today than they were yesterday. When we consistently implement these six philosophies, we will achieve all our goals.

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