By Dr. John A. Passante
As we begin a new year, it is a good time to remember how the automotive aftermarket got to where it is today. It is paramount to learn from the exciting history of our industry.
Without question, the brave entrepreneurs who had the vision, character and courage to start companies that kept America’s cars and trucks on the road were a special breed. They literally bet the farm to start jobbing stores, warehouses and manufacturing facilities. These were family enterprises. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters worked “in the business.”
Of course, we all owe a great deal of gratitude to these pioneers. They have given us a rich and precious legacy that we must nurture and cherish. The leadership style of the automotive aftermarket’s founding fathers (and mothers) was that of involvement, task orientation, pleasing the customer, watching costs and treating employees like family. Perhaps this leadership approach is best described as paternalistic. They cared about the employees and the customer!
With most of the firms in today’s automotive aftermarket being quite large and complex, a paternalistic management does not fit the corporate culture of today. The challenge is to lead with a style that engenders a commitment for our industry.
What can we learn from the legacy of past leaders?
Ponder the following:
When we think about yesterday’s leaders, we should use vibrant, living verbs that speak of risk-taking, passion and people who were indeed proactive. We should envision aftermarket leaders who took purposeful action and truly lived the business.
They had a strong commitment to test knowledge, through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
The question is: What type of leader are you? What type of leader would you like to be? What can we learn from the leaders of the past?
The Legacy of Legacy
The legacy of leadership entails the ability to pursue the following:
Live the legacy today!
Seek knowledge and leverage opportunities for others to grow, thereby creating a legacy for tomorrow.
Each day create, teach, influence and advocate for others.
Proactively influence others through trust, collaboration and open dialogue.
Live their values.
Inspire, in word and in deed.
Value differences in people and use them to create a learning organization.
View employees as having unique and compelling contributions to make to the company. Accountability and responsibility are the foundation of their being.
Live and breathe leadership.
The legacy of successful leaders is to lead living a legacy of today, now, and thus leaving a path for others to follow!
John Passante has more than 30 years of organizational development and senior human resource experience. His expertise is in management development, change management, training, recruiting, administration, executive coaching, succession planning, corporate communications and public relations. He is a motivational speaker who conducts seminars in the U.S. and internationally. Passante previously served as vice president of human resources at CARQUEST; senior vice president at Moog Automotive; and senior director worldwide human resources for Delphi Products and Service Solutions. He is an adjunct professor at Northwood University. Currently, Passante is the president and CEO of the Organizational Development Group Inc. His firm specializes in recruiting, coaching, change management and culture enhancement. Passante attended the University of Toledo, has a masters of business degree from Indiana Northern University and earned doctorate degrees from Pacific Western University and Northwood University. He is a member of the Northwood University Board of Governors. In 1995, Passante was inducted into the Automotive Aftermarket Hall of Fame and in 1980, he received the University of Toledo Peacemaker Award, an award given annually to outstanding Business Alumni. Passante was also recently named president of Brenton Productions.