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Leading the way

Successful dispatchers display a number of traits whenever they are on the job. They need to be well-organized, analyze situations which can change with every load, and make the decisive calls that reflect customer needs and industry...

Successful dispatchers display a number of traits whenever they are on the job. They need to be well-organized, analyze situations which can change with every load, and make the decisive calls that reflect customer needs and industry regulations alike. Even in the midst of a stressful situation like an unexpected delay in a just in time shipment, they need to be able to understand the context of every decision.

Above all, they need to demonstrate the qualities of a leader – motivating staff, planning activities, delegating work and more.

The challenge is that different workplace dynamics will require different leadership approaches along the way, according to the Dispatcher Interpersonal Skills Course, a self-directed training program from the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC).

A leadership approach should be determined with an understanding of a specific situation, the members of the team involved, and even the dispatcher’s personal preference. The look at the situation itself will involve balancing the impact of the decision and any deadlines that exist. And when considering members of the team, what kind of personalities are involved? What is the general attitude in the workplace? For that matter, does this group of drivers have the knowledge and skills to help make an effective decision?

For example, one of the more direct leadership styles is to be autocratic, maintaining all of the control and decision-making powers in a situation. This approach is appropriate when working with employees who feel more comfortable in a structured environment, dealing with a time sensitive crisis situation like a collision or spill, or guiding drivers who have a limited amount of experience.

But decisions like these cannot be made in a vacuum. For this style of leadership to be successful, dispatchers will need to have the confidence of the team.  This can be established by demonstrating an in depth knowledge of regulations and fleet policies alike and offering frequent feedback about satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance.

Without that strong foundation, there is a danger of being seen as too pushy or uncaring about other ideas. It is an approach that can stifle initiative or even lead to employee turnover as drivers look for the chance to have a greater influence over their jobs.

There are other times when a more democratic approach will be required, such as when a manager is working with drivers and fellow dispatchers to solve a problem or introduce a lasting change in the workplace. It would also apply when any decision that the team makes will be acceptable to senior managers.

In these cases, the dispatcher will need to help the group come to a consensus. An added advantage of this approach is that members of the team will be more committed to achieving a goal that they helped develop.

But the leadership approach will not apply in every case. The final decisions of the group will not necessarily be in the best interest of the business, and the method can even support a leader who wants to avoid taking personal responsibility for different actions.

A third approach is to be a consultative leader, inviting employees to participate in the decision-making process without actually relinquishing the power to make the final decision. The advantage here is that employees can still feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about a situation without worrying about any consequences.

This process allows the leader to gain valuable information and even a higher level of commitment from employees who will need to comply with the ultimate choice . It can enhance workplace policies and identify ideas that will make the fleet stronger than ever. And it can certainly be a valuable approach when implementing a change that requires buy-in from members of the team but still needs final approval from upper managers.

Granted, this style presents some challenges of its own. The consultations will take time, and that will involve additional resources. Members of the team involved in the consultation might even feel that they need to sell an idea, inflating the potential benefits of their preferred tactic along the way.

But above all, there is always a value in leading by example. When decisions are based on a fleet’s value and mission, coworkers will begin to display those attitudes in their own work. Positive support will also help to develop the cooperation and teamwork in the workplace that will lead to a smoother working environment for everyone involved.

For more information on the Dispatcher Interpersonal Skills Course, visit

The Canadian Trucking HR Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated not-for-profit organization that helps attract, train and retain workers for Canada’s trucking industry. The council receives funding through the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program, however, the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada. For more information, visit

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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