Rethinking Automotive Leadership with Millennial CEO Jose Flores

Rethinking Automotive Leadership with Millennial CEO Jose Flores

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Jose Flores is the 34-year-old CEO of a traditional Tier 1 automotive supplier — but there’s nothing traditional about the way he runs the company. While many leaders claim to disrupt the status quo, Jose actually lives it. From his innovation hub to his embrace of failure, Jose shares the techniques that help him empower a multigenerational workforce.

“With the old-timers,” says Jose, “you need to earn their trust and respect.” That requires leading by example and getting measurable results in the workplace. But Millenials and Gen Z are often looking for a different leadership mold. Jose says the younger generations need a sense of purpose and trust in their company’s values.

At Ancor Automotive, innovation is a value. For Jose, the space to create and test new ideas is non-negotiable, and it’s this vision that led him to overhaul his company’s structure.

Jan dives into Jose’s rapid ascension to automotive leadership and unpacks the secrets of his quiet confidence. How is this Millennial leader transforming a 40-year-old label supplier into an innovative tech company? What is he doing to change the culture and give everyone a voice — and how can other organizations replicate his success?

Don’t miss this powerful episode of the Automotive Leaders Podcast. If companies want to attract young talent, they can no longer rely on outdated management models and metrics-driven KPIs. Jose’s work at Ancor Automotive sets a new standard for the future of automotive leadership and inspires new possibilities for corporate innovation.

Themes discussed in this episode: 

  • What Millennials and Gen Z workers typically want from a company
  • Building trust with a multigenerational workforce
  • What it really means to Be a Working CEO
  • Why automotive leaders should embrace failure
  • The Challenges of retaining young talent
  • A new definition of KPI
  • The importance of investing in the culture budget
  • Why modern companies require servant leadership

Featured Guest: Jose Flores

What he does: Jose is the CEO of Ancor Automotive and a proud disruptor in the auto industry. His talent for strategic planning and fostering innovation powered his rapid rise into executive roles. At Ancor, Jose is piloting the transformation of a 40-year-old labeling company into a leader in software solutions for mobility manufacturers.

On leadership: “I'm a very technical, working CEO. I get into the nitty-gritty. If a machine breaks, I'm there watching it, trying to fix it by myself. If we're short-handed, I'll go there and help. I earn the respect of the people who have long tenure here by leading by example. I'm not just here in my fancy office, typing and having coffee. I'm there with you in the trenches, making it happen.”

Episode Highlights

Timestamped inflection points from the show

[0:58] Pardon the disruption: How does a 34-year-old become the CEO of a traditional Tier 1 supplier? Jose possesses the paradoxical ability to assimilate into a culture and then break the status quo.

[5:42] Skyrocket in flight: Jose recounts his journey from consulting into automotive and his vision to take Ancor from a label-making company to an innovator of software solutions.

[10:46] Millennials want more: Jan says there’s a reluctance in traditional automotive to give leadership roles to younger people — but Millenials and Gen Z are equally reluctant to accept an outdated corporate model.

[13:41] The innovation hub: How does Jose encourage ideas from every generation on his team at Ancor? He creates a safe environment to think outside the box and fail forward to solve customer pain points.

[19:32] Get on the same page: Jan presses for details about how Jose earns his employees’ trust. Jose explains what it means to truly be a “working CEO.”

[22:24] ‘It takes ironclad nerves’: A lot can go wrong for a young CEO. Jose shares his mindset to be comfortable in his own skin and move the company forward. Jan recalls her interview with Daniel Pink and “the regret of inaction.”

[24:37] Advice for auto industry leaders: Stand next to your team and encourage them to make decisions. Jose gives fellow leaders a roadmap.

[26:14] 21 traits: Of Jan’s 21 traits of authentic leadership, Jose sees vision and resilience as most prevalent in his work at Ancor. He gives examples of how these traits apply.

[30:31] A new KPI: At most companies, it’s a key performance indicator. Jose shares what it stands for at Ancor and explains why modern companies need servant leadership.

[35:52] Live to work or work to live?: Jan and Jose discuss hiring trends and challenges in retaining young talent. Jose shares what he sees as the biggest need for Michigan companies.

[40:38] Closing comments: The conversation turns to life outside of work, and Jose reveals his favorite restaurant in Detroit. Jan and Jose share their thoughts on investing in company culture. 

Top quotes

[12:00] Jan: “Anybody can fail at anything. But this tremendous fear that we have of failure and that it will somehow come back on us prevents us from trusting and coaching and giving that safe environment for Millennials and Gen Z to thrive. But if we don't do it, they're going to leave, aren't they?”

[12:54] Jose: “We need to adapt and we need to pivot. And we need to work with these new generations. Millennials are 35% of the working force in the US. Gen Zs are only 5% now, but they're coming. And these two generations are looking for something totally different than the traditional leadership model.”

[13:21] Jan: “As we all know, innovation, by definition — you try and you fail and you iterate. We cannot have innovation if we have fear of failure in the air.”

[23:19] Jose: “If you're afraid that you're going to fail, you're done. You're going to fail eventually. You're not perfect. What are you going to do with that failure? Are you going to be sad about it for the next couple of months and regret it? Or are you going to take it as a lesson learned and say, okay, let's go again, let's do it differently?”

[27:28] Jan: “Every Tier 1 company out there has its vision stated on its website or it's on a nicely framed poster on a wall […] They say things like, We're going to be the world-class manufacturer of this widget. That doesn't inspire anyone. Crafting a vision for a company has got to come from the heart.”