Leadership skills evolve, but integrity, work ethic remain crucial ingredients

Business leaders young and…experienced, were brought together on a panel at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s (PMTC) annual conference to share insights on generational leadership, past, present and future.

Mike McCarron, president of Rite Route Supply Chain Solutions, has seen leadership skills evolve over his lengthy career in the transportation industry. And for the better, he stressed.

“Do as I say, not as I do doesn’t cut it anymore,” he said. “Workers have changed. The workforce is more diverse today. Leadership is much more difficult. You have to respect different cultures and traditions. You can’t hide your sins anymore.”

While leadership is more challenging in today’s environment, he noted the industry also now provides a safer and better workplace. He recalls when trucking company sales reps would give customers calendars portraying scantily clad women as Christmas gifts. Those days are gone, he said, for the better.

James Johnstone, head of transportation at Giant Tiger, said there isn’t any one leadership style that will work best in every company. “I encourage my people to do the right thing. Pick a style that works for them. I preach to them all the time, do the things you say you’re going to do,” he said.

Matt Richardson, vice-president at KRTS Transportation Specialists, had the added challenge of becoming a leader in a family run business. But he said he earned respect by working his way up through the company as anyone else would.

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(Image: iStock)

“When I was done university, I had to go through all the designations and programs KRTS offered before I was able to sell them,” he said.

Working with family members is also something McCarron is familiar with. He founded Rite Route with his son, who now runs the company. But his son started at the same salary as everyone else. “He was just another employee,” McCarron said. “Don’t cut deals, don’t give a big title [to family members].”

When hiring the next generation of business leaders, McCarron said to focus on attitude and integrity. The business itself can be taught, he said.

“I’m a firm believer you don’t need experience in trucking at all. I prefer to teach them the business and promote from within,” he said, noting Rite Route has been built around a team of good people who didn’t have any relevant industry experience.

It’s also important to keep up with evolving trends in the workplace. Richardson said it used to be a red flag if a prospective employee had worked several places in short order. Now it’s just more reflective of the times.

“It doesn’t eliminate the individual from the interview process,” he said of candidates who’ve moved around. “It’s our job to dig down into the whys and to sort out if that person is going to be a good fit.”

He pointed out a good employee can bring a lot of value to your business in a short time period even if they do leave a few years later. “I don’t think in today’s society it’s a red flag. Now, job jumping is a pretty common thing.”

Richardson agreed with McCarron that industry-specific work experience isn’t vital, if the right attitude and work ethic are present.

“Most of the people in this room didn’t choose transportation. We fell into it by default but made long-term sustainable careers out of it,” he pointed out.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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