May 2001 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

Practicing Enlightened Leadership

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With employers facing labor shortages and unprecedented worker mobility, a stable, productive workforce of drivers, owner operators, and support employees is unusual in the rapidly changing trucking industry. It has been my experience in this industry that workforce stability—with low employee turnover—follows enlightened leadership.

Enlightenment arrives when leaders elevate their game to a higher level. Intellect kicks in, head and heart take over for the hands, and vision—a clear perspective on how the future can affect the organization—replaces gut feeling.

Here are six meditations that will help you attain enlightened leadership:

1. Enlightened leaders do more than simply manage or direct drivers, owner operators, and the staff that supports them. Instead they inspire, coach, encourage, and guide. They earn consensus by working as part of the team, providing resources to get the job done, then getting out of the way and letting their people perform.

2. Enlightened leaders are creative, and their creativity stimulates those around them. They share information and insights, helping others see the big picture and giving them the opportunity to do great things, to learn and grow, and to make a difference themselves. They begin to perceive that they can make a difference too, making their work as drivers, dispatchers, mechanics, or support personnel a lot of fun.

3. Enlightened leaders sincerely care about their people and emphasize the importance of building and maintaining positive working relationships. From this grows a sense of team, which feeds a culture of collaboration. When enlightened leaders cultivate the skills of their subordinates by concentrating on people instead of simply numbers, they begin building other leaders, confident in the understanding that the bottom-line numbers will come. They understand that people who are happy at work are productive in the cab, in the office, or in the garage.

4. Enlightened leaders ensure that everyone has the resources to perform at a high level. Those resources include information (open book management), tools, equipment, time, space, and a supervisor to cut through red tape and remove obstacles to high achievement.

5. Recognizing that people want to grow, enlightened leaders provide wide-ranging opportunities for learning and new experiences. They set the example by reading trade literature, participating in trade conferences, and networking with peers in customer, supplier, and trucking industry groups. They also encourage the organization to bring in outside experts to share ideas, information, perspectives, and insights—on topics not necessarily related to transportation—with employees. And they promote continuing education, with the understanding that lifelong learning helps them grow as people—and as employees.

6. Compensation will always be an issue, but enlightened leaders downplay the dollars and emphasize other rewards. They give employees—especially the sought-after professional driver—a benefits package that enriches beyond standard hospitalization and Major Medical and responds to their needs and interests.

Those who practice the principles of enlightened leadership find that employees are able to better understand what is expected of them and deliver on those expectations.

The key is to bring these principles into action across the organization, creating a culture that is conducive to high performance on the road or in the office. Achieving this will make a difference for all parties involved.

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