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Leaders Stand at the Front of the Boat

The editorial theme of MAC for 2024 is to guide and coach dealers to be the 'Employer of Choice' in your market. 


As a leader, you are likely part of developing your company's vision, mission, and corporate values, often with your Board. In 2022, I authored an article about the distance from the corporate boardroom to the dealer breakroom. The purpose of that article was to identify the dilution of the company values in the chain of communication from the boardroom to the line-level employees who deal with the customers and manage the business resources daily.   

Developing culture development is a primary leadership role.  

Management of the business's resources is a stewardship role. 

Organizations frequently mirror the character and actions of their leaders, managers, and supervisors. Positive business cultures build on balance, and there should be a balance between leadership and stewardship. Leadership and stewardship must coexist for clarity and consistency in the company's vision, mission, and values.   

Let's examine this balance in four key areas. 

1 - When the focus is on People versus Resources. 

  • Leadership: Primarily focuses on guiding and influencing people towards a common goal or the company vision and mission. Leaders often inspire and motivate their team members, provide direction, and make decisions that impact the group. 

  • Stewardship: Emphasizes the responsible management and care of resources, whether they are financial, environmental, or organizational. Stewards - whether managers, supervisors, or department heads - are entrusted with the budgets of the business and the well-being and sustainability of their resources. 

2 - When the focus is on the Short-term versus Longer Term Perspectives 

  • Leadership: Often involves making decisions and taking actions to achieve short-term objectives and immediate goals. Leaders must quickly assess business circumstances and manage risk. Agility and adaptability to the environment are essential to leadership effectiveness. 

  • Stewardship: This takes a more long-term perspective, considering the impact of decisions on the future and the sustainability of resources over time. Stewards ensure that resources are used wisely and preserved for future generations. Stewards are typically more risk-averse than leaders. 


3 - The relationship between Authority and Position vs. Responsibility and Accountability 

  • Leadership: Involves using authority and position to influence others and make decisions. Leaders are responsible for achieving results and accountable for the success or failure of their actions. Leaders do not hesitate to make decisions. 

  • Stewardship: Involves responsibility and accountability for adequately managing and preserving resources. Stewards may not always have formal authority but must act in the best interests of the resources and people they oversee. Good stewards act more composed and organized, avoiding risk and playing the long game. 

4 - Which is more Dynamic, and which is more Consistent? 

  • Leadership: Can be dynamic and situational, adapting to changing circumstances and challenges. Leaders may need to adjust their approach based on the organization's immediate needs. Great leaders are not afraid to seek advice but are selective with whom they share their conversations. The best leader needs to recognize their weaknesses and surround themselves with talented people with the courage and character to speak up when the leader seeks their advice. 

  • Stewardship: Often involves a more consistent and principled approach to managing people and resources responsibly. Stewards work towards maintaining a balance and sustainability over the long term. Managers and supervisors don't like surprises and can be disrupted in their performance when the circumstances are uncertain. 

With these definitions in mind, leadership focuses on guiding and influencing people toward achieving goals; stewardship emphasizes responsible and sustainable management of resources over time. Both must be in balance for the business to thrive. Influential leaders may also embody stewardship principles, ensuring that their decisions and actions consider the long-term well-being of people and resources. 

Both Leadership and Stewardship impact the customer and employee experience. 

Eight characteristics define exceptional customer and employee experience, and both Leadership and Stewardship are essential in a balanced dealership.   

1 - Leadership commitment,  

2 - Employee engagement,  

3 - Personalization,  

4 - User-friendly processes,  

5 - Consistency across the organization,  

6 - Proactive communication,  

7 - Efficient customer support, and  

8 - Learning from employee and customer feedback. 

At MAC, we see that all eight of these characteristics are essential for the Connected, Collaborate, Adaptive "Second Machine Age Dealer" to be the 'Employer of Choice.' 

While the Leader may stand at the front of the boat, it is the Stewards of the business who provide the sustainable power and navigation to keep the ship on course. 

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