Leadership. Now there’s a word that immediately sparks attention. And if the number of articles and books that are published on this topic are any indication, we’re all thinking about it. And whether it’s the rapidly evolving automotive industry – or any other business – if there is one universal it’s this: we are leading through a time of remarkable change.
Leaders Must Embrace Change
These times of change that we live in and lead through are increasingly competitive and connected. Digital Retailing is revolutionizing our lives by adding new technologies and an ever-increasing volume of goods, services and information moving around the world at unprecedented speeds. To keep ahead of this change, we spend a lot of our time asking questions about the future of leadership:
- How can we help create effective leaders for tomorrow, when those of our generation are no longer making the decisions?
- What should universally effective leadership look like to navigate these new changes?
From a top-level view, I strongly believe that leadership needs to be reflective and responsive to our world. For an organization to function successfully and meaningfully, everyone must be a leader. Essentially, effective leadership looks like you. It looks like me. It looks like the person next to you.
Let’s begin with one of the biggest changes that is challenging all business leaders today, which is the massive change in the workplace demographic. Yes, I am talking about the emerging millennial generation, for whom all of the many changes in the business world—for example, new technology and multitasking—are second nature to. I’ve already written about how millennials are different consumers. But this generation is also a growing portion of the workforce, accounting for more than one-third of the people working in Canada.
Millennials grew up in a radically different society than the older baby boomers, a world in which most things are only a touch away. They reflect a modern workforce that is dynamic and fluid. In most cases, the way forward is a series of lateral moves between companies that offer a growing number of opportunities, responsibilities and experiences. 91% of millennials expect to stay in their job for less than three years and they have no problem leaving a job for one that will accommodate their values and ambitions. As leaders, we need to adapt to this demographic shift.
Mentoring Future-Proofs Your Business
This demographic change in our workforce is also why leaders must create a work environment —and not just for the millennial generation—that encourages mentorship, openness to new ideas and empowerment to create strong employees of today, and build successful leaders of tomorrow.
Adapting to this change isn’t about retention simply for retention’s sake; it is about creating an environment where everyone feels invested and can see that they’re working towards a goal together, giving them a reason to stay. This is why mentorship is so important. Not just one-on-one mentorship, but a clearly defined, mentorship program.
Mentorship programs are educational but they also encourage leadership by showcasing it. It’s not about passing off an assignment; it’s about collaborating to encourage innovation. Mentorship programs work and there are many examples of their effectiveness. They work in the long term and in the short term
So what are the long-term results of mentoring in your organization? It makes sure newer employees have opportunities to become leaders who will ultimately help your organization succeed in the future. It fosters knowledge transfer and bridges gaps between internal corporate groups. It also encourages loyalty and a sense of belonging to the organisation.
Giving up the Reigns Doesn’t Mean Giving up Control
This brings me to empowerment, and how empowering staff can help companies and enterprises advance in our modern age.
Many of the icons of the business world have built their reputations as almost authoritarian figures. But here’s the reality: People perform better at their jobs when they feel valued and trusted, not when they feel neglected or irrelevant. And today’s automotive industry is a great example how change requires innovation. But nothing stifles innovation in an organization like a top-down approach.
So How Do Today’s Leaders Effectively Empower People?
- Begin by giving greater authority to the people on your team who have best demonstrated the ability to handle it;
- Don’t second-guess unless you’ve got no other choice;
- Give people the right signals not only with your words but also with your actions.
True empowerment requires time. It requires an investment of trust over an extended period. No team member will truly believe that he or she is empowered until they are left alone to make a decision that illustrates an aligned approach between employer and employee.
More than anything, empowering your organization requires a strong, self-aware leader with a clear vision. Micro managing becomes less necessary when everyone already knows where the company is heading, and what’s expected of employees.
We Are All Leaders
In the end, every one of us – and every person in your organization – is a leader. When people feel empowered in their roles when they can see they’re working together towards a great goal when they see the long term potential – they will lead and they will transform because great leaders can change not only their organization but also the world. As I started this article, leading through a time of remarkable change looks like you, it looks like me and it looks like the person sitting next to you.
Maria Soklis is the President of Cox Automotive Canada, leading the development and execution of Cox Automotive’s Canadian business strategy and operations and has responsibility for the existing Manheim & Dealertrack businesses in Canada, provides a supporting role with NextGear Capital, and helps the introduction of other Cox Automotive businesses into the market.