Serve your people, and they’ll serve your customers. Lessons on becoming an inspirational leader from Brand Pretorius.
Living business legend
Brand Pretorius played a pivotal role in bringing McCarthy from the brink of bankruptcy to highly profitable
I’m often asked what it means to be a good leader. Remember this sentence: I am the light switch every morning. When I walk into the business, I look each and every one of my employees in the eye. I involve, empower, respect, trust, coach, and work with them – I just love my people. Are you deliberate in your efforts to switch on the lights?
Millions of team members around the world spend their lives figuratively in darkness. Gallup polls measuring employee engagement show this phenomenon clearly.
46% of employees have no sense of belonging, no confidence in the businesses they work for and quality of leadership they’re expected to follow. If you are actively disengaged, you’re practically sabotaging the business.
Who should be blamed for these poor stats? The workers? We’re quick to say they’re lazy, but shouldn’t we rather be looking at the quality of leadership in organisations? Let me share a story that demonstrated how leadership can affect a business.
Related: How to keep your stars happy and your bench inspired
The law of leadership
Shortly after I joined the McCarthy Group, I made a point to visit as many McCarthy Nissan dealerships as I could.
The new vehicle market was in trouble, and I wanted to touch base with our dealerships to see how they were faring. I arrived at the first dealership at 7am, and couldn’t find the dealer principle. I eventually found him in his office. No tea was offered, no pleasantries given, just complaints: Sales were down by 40%, Nissan was in trouble because we didn’t have a passenger car range. Within ten minutes I was depressed. I said, “Can I walk through the dealership to meet your people?”
As we marched through, he explained the layout and requested new equipment. We then went to his office and reviewed the numbers. There was red ink everywhere.
Next, I travelled to McCarthy Germiston. This dealership was in the wrong side of town, and if anything I was expecting it to be even worse off than my first stop. This time however, the dealer principle was waiting for me to arrive in the parking lot.
“Brand, it’s so wonderful to have you here, I can’t wait to introduce you to my winning team,” were his first words to me.
He knew everyone’s names, and shared personal anecdotes about each person he introduced me to. This was a dealership of bright eyes and friendly smiles. There was an atmosphere of excitement, pride and passion. It was an inspirational experience. And guess what? The numbers were good, despite the bad location.
So what was different from one dealership to the next? The answer is leadership. Success rises and falls with the right leader. The one dealership had an autocratic manager, the other an inspirational leader. There is a world of difference between the two.
Related: How to turn an underperformer into an ideal employee
Being the light switch
How do you get your people to volunteer their energy, intelligence, commitment and loyalty to the organisation? Become an inspirational leader.
Here are five ways to get started.
- Lead on a perpetual basis. You are always the leader, so embrace this role and make sure everything you do supports it.
- Understand the difference between managing people and leading people. Teams are generally over managed and under led. Both functions are critically important though. Management is for effective execution, leadership is for vision. Leaders are obsessed with creating a better tomorrow for the good of all. Managers look at today. Leaders focus on people, managers on process. Leaders do the right things for direction, strategy, principles and values. Managers do things right.
- You can’t lead by autopilot or emulating someone else. You need to develop your own leadership approach. First-time bosses tend to emulate their bosses. That’s their frame of reference and it seldom works. Find your own style and way. Remember that autocratic leadership leads to reluctant compliance that lacks inspiration.
- Be a servant leader. Before you ask for a hand, touch a heart – care for your people and be willing to serve, and you will engage their minds and their hearts.
- Be kind without being weak. Learn to be bold without being a bully, be firm but fair, rigorous with results, but not ruthless.
If you serve your people, they will serve your customers. It’s your job to transmit inspiration. Switch on the lights. Once a quarter, put a question in your electronic diary that asks: Why should people follow me? Reflect on it and never lose sight of the answer, during good times and tough times.
Related: How to deal with difficult people
Copyright is owned by Entrepreneur Media SA and/or Entrepreneur Media Inc.
All rights reserved. Click here to read our editorial disclaimer.