Imagine a national television reporter puts you on the spot in front of a live audience and asks, “What is your teachable point of view on leadership, and what is the function of business leaders in your organization?” How would you respond?

I recently was in this position along with a group of executives from the nation's top 100 home builders, and I can attest that it's not an easy question to answer if you don't have a defined leadership philosophy that stems from your corporate culture and values.

Noel Tichy, author of “The Cycle of Leadership” and a professor at the University of Michigan Business School, directed this exercise in early May at the BUILDER 100 conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., an event produced by BUILDER magazine, a sister publication of PROSALES. Without any time to prepare a formal response, a summary of my answer went something like this: “Being a leader means being able to realize that I need to develop a team of people who will amass a diverse set of skills that exceed my individual strengths in many areas. It is the sum of the parts of the team that is important to produce the best possible product, and good leaders are not intimidated by those who excel over them in certain areas because they recognize that that expertise raises the level of the department in which they work, and ultimately the company as a whole.”

I'm sure your answer would have been different. I'm also certain after hearing Tichy speak that most pro dealers could benefit from a structured approach to leadership development that defines the importance of human resources, develops empowerment strategies, and creates benchmarks that other dealers can look to as best-practice examples.

Based on research with many business icons, Tichy has concluded that a large percentage of top executives fail their organizations because they do not understand how to develop future generations of leaders. The bottom line, he said, is that “leaders add value. End of story.” And that value is measured on return on invested capital and top-line growth. “It is your job as a leader to develop other leaders, and to do that you need a ‘Teachable Point of View,'” he added. That encompasses strong ideas, personal values to support those ideas, and emotional energy to motivate the development of others. And, according to Tichy, in addition to having a teachable point of view, you also need five more qualities to unleash leadership potential:

  • You must commit one-half to one-third of your time to a development program.
  • You must be open to ideas and feedback and be willing to admit to mistakes.
  • You must focus on growth through real business projects with actual risks.
  • You have to have a dual focus on human resources and hard business issues.
  • You must create an engaging process that pushes people to take risks and learn from experience.
  • These are not easy concepts to embrace and implement, and if you use them, they probably will take you outside of your business comfort zone. However, on the upside, they can help take your company beyond traditional promotion hierarchies and open a new avenue of executive growth. As Tichy will tell you, being a learning organization is not nearly as good as being a teaching organization—so get your lesson plans ready.

    Lisa Clift, Editor