Are fleet managers leaders? Mike Pitcher, president & CEO of LeasePlan USA, says, yes. According to Pitcher’s definition, leaders are people who influence and a fleet manager is a person of influence. He or she influences senior management, other departmental managers, suppliers, and drivers.
In fact, Pitcher’s definition of leadership is that we are all leaders since we all have the ability to influence. “If you’re in a position to influence the behavior, thoughts, or feelings of others then you’re in a leadership role,” wrote Pitcher in his new book, The Seven eLements of Leadership, which is available on Amazon. “Remember, leadership is defined as influence, and you influence always.”
So, what makes for a successful leader? Pitcher has identified the formula for successful leadership and it revolves around seven principles:
1. Laugh: A sense of humor is an essential requirement for most leadership positions. Let your team know that you’re not a robot. Allow them to see the human side of you and that you’re a person who can laugh at a joke, a funny situation, or even at a mistake made by them or you. “From a business perspective I have always found that laughter decreases stress and humor offers a positive course correction in a stressful situation,” wrote Pitcher.
2. Learn: Be known as the leader who realizes you don’t know everything and as the leader who thirsts for new learning.
3. Listen: Be the leader who understands the desires (and dreams) of others and who listens prior to making decisions. Let people know that their input is important.
4. Language: Be the inclusive communicator who speaks with passion, purpose, and commitment. Become the storyteller who spreads positive messages and images throughout your organization (and your family).
5. Lagniappe: This is a Cajun word that means “to give a little extra,” as exemplified by the concept of the baker’s dozen. Do more than is expected of you as a leader and watch as others do more than you expect of them.
6. Legacy: Become a teacher and share your knowledge, experience, and wisdom with others by leaving wherever you are a better place than it was when you found it.
7. Love: Live with passion in your life. Realize that what you do is not who you are and share an attitude of gratitude with those you meet. Be thankful.
The leadership journey has no real end; it is continuous and evolving. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read Pitcher’s book. I thought of the successful fleet managers that I have known who embodied these seven principles and who were given the autonomy to implement innovative initiatives to drive cost out of their fleet operations. These fleet managers work for companies that recognize the strategic aspect to fleet management and view vehicle acquisition, replacement planning, funding alternatives, and sourcing alliances with manufacturers and vendors as high-level strategic corporate decisions.
As a consequence, a strategic fleet manager spends his or her day focused on fleet policy development, safety program initiatives, vehicle selector creation based on exhaustive lifecycle cost analyses, implementation of a corporate sustainability program, and the establishment of metrics to support his or her fleet supplier partners.
These fleet managers see their job to present the “fleet” perspective to management since they are the most qualified person in the organization to understand the fleet consequences of ill-informed decisions. This knowledge allows them to be proactive, anticipate changes in the corporate ecosystem, and implement fleet programs that contribute to the achievement of overall company goals. For example, some companies focus on cash flow, while others zero-in on employee retention, hiring, productivity, and satisfaction. Each of these corporate objectives dictates different policies and programs. A fleet manager, who is a leader, conceptualizes and develops innovative and cost-effective ways to support these objectives.
By optimizing fleet operations, fleet managers are creating a positive legacy for their successor and stakeholders. In addition to being an expert in fleet management, an exemplary fleet manager is also intimately aware of the company’s product line and services, marketing objectives, corporate culture, and the needs of user groups. This is one manifestation of the concept of lagniappe; of doing more than what is expected of you. These fleet managers are leaders who are proactive and anticipate changes in their corporate environment. They diligently employ the principals of listening and learning.
It is critical that fleet managers rise above the level of simply managing day-to-day work. Their understanding of the company’s business must transcend fleet management, which, in turn, will eventually cause senior management to recognize the fleet manager as the in-house expert on all matters dealing with fleet management. These fleet managers have mastered language, who speak with passion, purpose, and commitment.
The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them. A successful fleet manager needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get all stakeholders on board to follow them to a vision of best-in-class fleet management. These fleet managers live with passion in their lives and embody the final two elements of leadership by having a love for what they do, but most importantly they can laugh and have fun doing it.
Let me know what you think.