Once considered the core of the planet’s auto manufacturing industry, the city’s population of nearly 1.8 million in 1950 has decreased to less than 713,000 in 2013. Of those 713,000 residents, 128,000 of them — approximately one in five — are without a job as the city’s unemployment rate hovers around 18 percent.

Living a few miles from the city limits, it’s safe to say the Murder City – err, the Motor City, is in serious trouble.

In 1950, behind a thriving automobile industry and upper-echelon salaries, Detroit grew to be the fourth largest city in the nation. As cheaper labor became more accessible and engineering knowledge evolved beyond American trademarks, the industry fled south.

Of course, while the well-chronicled collapse of American manufacturing played a prominent part in the city’s demise, many fingers can also be pointed at the city’s leadership, or lack thereof. For instance, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is about ready to be sentenced for 20-30 years for his actions while in office.

Taking Charge

The people of Detroit certainly didn’t want to slide down this slope, but, a team is only as good as its leader. And, while leadership is somewhat difficult to define, superior leadership always breeds success.

So, let’s examine the leadership at your company.

Good leaders are often very well-liked, but while popularity does carry a certain amount of social weight, it’s not everything. Leaders must make difficult decisions balancing the short- and long-term direction of the company, with profit as a common denominator. Sometimes, the proper decision is not the most popular. Cutting staff to survive a recession, for example, is not a move that is often applauded by employees — however, as a leader, it’s a move that better solidifies future success. While Kilpatrick was Detroit voters’ most popular choice, he clearly wasn’t the proper choice.

If you have to — for whatever reason — step away from your throne for a few days, you must have someone ready to step in and take command. If you haven’t taken the time to train a right-hand man, now’s the time to do so. The business as a whole should not suffer in the wake of a personal catastrophe. A delegation plan must be in place and you must be willing to trust your peers with the steering wheel.

As a leader, your work must be inspirational. Perhaps it’s time you jumped in a truck and joined your crew on a job site. Workers are encouraged when they see the boss down in the trenches, elbow deep in a/c maintenance. It isn’t necessary to demonstrate your hard work every day — the results will speak for themselves — however, be sure to maintain a level of mutual respect with your employees.

Make sure you are following through on commitments. Employees who enjoy their work are more likely to exceed expectations, delivering peak performance if and when called upon. Compliment a job well done. Also, once threatened, consequences should be issued when necessary. If you say you’re going to do it, you’d better do it.

So, what kind of leader are you? Are you a manager who leads by example? Or, do you tend to hide behind your title? Is it your prerogative to simply show up and collect a paycheck while the minions twist the screws? Studies show that workplace incivility flourishes under passive leaders.
Successful HVACR companies are led by committed, confident, creative, and inspired individuals. Those lacking these characteristics are meddling in mediocrity. Because, without a doubt, lazy leadership and poor decision making precedes failure. But, don’t take my word for it — just ask the residents of Detroit.

Publication date: 8/5/2013