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After her fascinating interview with HEVO founder Jeremy McCool, Jan reflects on the idea of declaring oneself a leader. Instead of fitting a mold, many successful young leaders are making their own statements of purpose, and the results are transforming the auto industry.
Drawing on lessons from Jeremy and other past show guests — including Michael Chime (Gen Z Ceo) and Doug Conant (former CEO of The Campbell Soup Co.) Jan outlines a process for how leaders can remain true to themselves while creating a positive and productive company culture.
“We can influence somebody's life,” Jan says. “We can make it better; we can make it a wonderful, meaningful, challenging, awesome experience and culture — or we can make it as miserable as sin.”
On this episode of the Automotive Leaders Podcast, Jan challenges leaders to structure their company cultures around their value systems. Tune in for resources, inspiration, and practical questions to ask yourself as Jan speaks from her own experience in the industry. She shares a powerful story of how one of her clients stepped out with authenticity and vulnerability to radically shift her team’s culture. With the right mindset, any automotive leader can do the same.
This is not about what it says on the company website or a set of motivational clichés. It’s time to get real and get personal. See how a simple statement can redefine your career.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- Fitting an existing mold vs. establishing a new one
- Why Gen Z leaders often choose purpose over money
- Seeing leadership as an influence
- How company values are born from the leader’s vision
- Winning in the workplace — productivity and positivity can coexist
- Creating a high-performance team
- The framework of a leadership statement
- Questions every leader should ask
Featured Expert: Jan Griffiths (Host)
What she does: Jan is the co-founder and president of Gravitas Detroit, an organization dedicated to cultivating authentic leadership in the automotive industry by providing courses, workshops, speaking events, and more. She is also the host of The Automotive Leaders Podcast.
On leadership: “What I see coming through in the leaders of tomorrow — the leaders who will take this industry forward — they truly understand the importance of purpose, of vision, of conviction.”
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[0:57] Break the mold: Jan draws inspiration from Jeremy McCool and explains why she feels encouraged by the rising generation of automotive leadership.
[2:03] Not your grandfather’s kind of leader: Jan contrasts her early experiences in automotive with the mindsets she observes in many Gen Z leaders, including Michael Chime of Prepared.
[4:23] Purpose over money: Many leaders are good at articulating what they do, but not why they do it. Jan challenges leaders to reflect on more than just the bottom line.
[5:13] ‘Leadership is influence’: An excerpt from Jeremy’s interview connects lessons from his time in the military to business leadership. Leaders must often ask people to do things that are impractical or illogical. Jeremy explains how to influence others successfully.
[9:43] Conviction over compliance: Jan shares what she sees as the defining quality of leaders of tomorrow and how company values are born from a leader’s vision.
[12:43] Tough but tender: It’s time to get practical. Jan recalls her interview with Doug Conant as she lays out how leaders can achieve both positive results and employee engagement.
[16:00] Think about your role: Building form lessons in Doug’s book, The Blueprint, Jan challenges listeners to make their own leadership statements. Jan shares the success story of one of her clients.
[18:59] Advice for auto industry leaders: Leaders should ask themselves these questions to define their leadership statements.
[3:52] Jan: “The leaders we see coming up now are not interested in fitting a mold that somebody else has established. They're very comfortable in setting out who they are as leaders and being who they want to be. And they see leadership in a totally different way: They don't see it as a job. That's all about controlling and managing people. They don't see it that way.”
[4:55] Jan: “We're all very good at articulating what we do and how we impact the bottom line. But how often do we sit back and think, what is our job as a leader?”
[6:00] Jeremy: “What I learned how to do is influence people to do things that were radical. Going to war does not make sense. It really doesn't, when you think of it from a very objective point of view. Putting yourself in danger doesn't make any sense, either. So you have to learn how to influence people to do things that are really impractical.”
[10:28] Jan: “You've heard me say many times, company values are far more than some numbers that you throw up on a chart and stick in a conference room or throw on your website. They've got to be meaningful. They've got a flow from the purpose, from the vision and, yes, you have to have conviction behind it.”
Mentioned in this episode:
Today's a solo episode. I don't know about you, but I was inspired by Jeremy McCool, the founder and CEO of HEVO, the EV wireless charging company. If you haven't listened to that episode, I'll drop a link in the show notes. I strongly encourage you to go back and listen to it. Why? Because there's so much in there that we can learn about leadership, and more importantly, future leadership in our beloved automotive industry. I'm encouraged by what I see in terms of young leaders coming through the ranks and establishing a new mold of leadership in this industry. So today, I'd like to talk about that about future leadership in this industry. But then, I want to talk about how do you declare yourself as a leader? And I'm realizing that that probably makes no sense right now. But stay tuned, because it will. All right. Future Leaders in automotive, I have interviewed millennial leaders, and I've interviewed Gen Z leaders. If you haven't listened to the interview I did probably about two years ago now. And it is the CEO of Prepared. Prepared is a company that is most definitely mission driven. Michael Chime is the CEO. At the time, he was a Yale student. And he had an idea he was inspired after a school shooting. And he had an idea that we needed to connect all the emergency services much better than they have been connected in the past. A lot of these communication systems were old and antiquated. And he wanted to do something about it. And he is and he's making it happen. And when you listen to that episode, you'll get this idea that the Gen Z and Millennial leaders of today are not trying to fit a mold. They're not. They're not trying to fit a mold that their father or grandfather created for them in the corporate world. My experience in the corporate world in automotive, I always tried to fit a mold that somebody else set out for me. Throughout my career, I was very good at assimilating into whatever that company culture was, and I became whatever they wanted to be. I didn't sacrifice myself completely. Of course, I didn't, I still stayed true to my core values, but I became what they wanted me to be. So if they had a more aggressive culture, I would show my more aggressive side. If they had a more collaborative culture, you would see that come out in me. But the leaders, we see coming up now are not interested in fitting a mold that somebody else has established, they're very comfortable in setting out who they are as leaders, and being who they want to be. And they see leadership in a totally different way. They don't see it as a job. That's all about controlling and managing people. They don't see it that way.Jan Griffiths:
Did you know the Gen Z is the first generation to prioritize purpose over money. Gen Z, wants to understand what is your purpose not only as a company, but what's your purpose? As a leader? And so often, we don't think about that, do we? We think about our jobs as VP of supply chain, head of HR, VP of Operations, director of business development. We're all very good at articulating what that is and what we do and how we impact the bottom line. But how often do we sit back and think about what is our job as a leader? What does that look like and feel like? I want to play an excerpt from the interview I did with Jeremy McCool, the EV wireless charging company. And you really get a sense of what he believes leadership is, again, it's not about filling a mold that somebody else put out for him. It's about being who he is. Yes, it's about being his 100% authentic self. It's about how he understands leadership from the perspective of influence and how he indeed, was influenced by his experience in the military. Take a listen.Jan Griffiths:
Tell me what did you learn from your experience of leadership in the military?Jeremy McCool:
So first, in one word, leadership is influence. And what I learned how to do is influence people to do things that were radical go into war does not make sense. It really doesn't, when you think of it from a very objective point of view, and putting yourself into that danger doesn't make any sense either. So, you gotta learn how to influence people to do things that are really impractical. And not only that, but when bullets are flying, to run towards the bullets, not away from them. And so a lot of the practical things, and impractical things in leadership is influencing. And so what I've also learned through the process of being a leader for 20 plus years now in all kinds of forms, is that the more that you are able to influence people to do things that are positive, the more that they're willing to subject themselves to doing things that are unique to them are out of their bounds or out of the box of what they've ever done before. And I think, ultimately, that's what I've learned from the military is how to influence people to do really incredible things that they would have never have thought of doing themselves. If you can't influence people to join, build something together, to get online with your vision, to move on to the next steps and go through a lot of different phases of challenges, and unforeseen things that you would never know about until you got there, then you're never going to do it. Because team is everything. Without team you cannot do anything. And back to the military days, the single most important factor that made my platoon and everybody around us a success was that people bought into the vision. And then in might think, well, what's the vision of being in a war. When you're a military officer on the ground, especially the type of Officer I was as an infantry officer, you're on the frontline, you're responsible for everything that's happening on a battlefield. And there's more to it than just that we were trying to help rebuild a nation not just helped kickstart off economic, not just things with sewage systems, and central controls around those kinds of things, but just help alleviate some of the bigger problems like energy, people didn't have energy inside their homes more than an hour or two per day, and what that meant to them in terms of their their livelihoods and their quality of life. And when you get to witness that firsthand, what you quickly realize is how lucky you've been if you've had it. And then whatever you can do to ensure that you get to continue to have that but also to help other people I think is what we all inherently have inside of us is is how do we help other people get at least to that certain point where they can have freedom. And so a lot of the work I did, I didn't have a command or control environment where like you said, there was you do what you're told, and you go off and do it, it was never like that is me, telling my leadership, this is what we're going to do getting there advisement, to make sure that we were on the same page, and then putting it to my team leaders or squad leaders and the people that were in the leadership underneath me to go get it done and execute upon it. And so taking that into the business world and into the business climate, how's that work very easily, because now I know how to find something that is unique, you gotta find that anomaly that one thing that's going to change everything. Secondly, to set a vision, create a mission and a purpose around it.Jan Griffiths:
Clearly, Jeremy understands that leadership is about influence, and he's driven with a mission and a purpose. And he's very comfortable in his own skin in articulating what that really means to him personally, and how his life story and his experiences have framed up and shaped his vision and his mission for the company. It's not about command and control. It's about influence and its leadership with conviction. And when you listen to the full interview, you will feel the level of conviction that this man has, it's palpable. It's not about compliance. And that's what I see coming through in the leaders of tomorrow. The leaders that will take this industry forward. They truly understand the importance of purpose, of vision, of conviction. It's not about leading with compliance, it's about leading with conviction, or what does that mean in terms of culture, then? How do we flow down from this vision and purpose? values? So you've heard me say many times, company values are far more than some numbers that you throw up on a chart and stick it in a conference room or throw it on your website, they've got to be meaningful, they've got a flow from the purpose from the vision. And yes, you have to have conviction behind it. Let's take a listen to what Jeremy has to say about his values.Jeremy McCool:
Values that other people are willing to, to also get on with, because the company culture is everything. You can build the greatest product in the world. But if you have a terrible company culture, it's going to destroy everything that you've built. So honestly, empathy, vision and optimism are four core values. And it's also the four core products that we offer, which is the HEVO and series: home, every day vehicle to grid and Omni. These different naming groups, we've connected it back to our name, everything is built around that brand.Jan Griffiths:
I love that because brand is identity, and identity drives behavior.Jeremy McCool:
And we believe that 100% And we believe that your identity is created by your habits. If that's true, then we all believe it is then honestly, empathy, vision, and optimism has to be innate to those habits. And that helps to drive the discipline because there is a specific vision, a very deep focus on tackling the problems with our current customer groups, with logistics, and transit and accessibility groups. And so in order for us to do that, and do it successfully, we have to have conviction behind the brand, and the behavior, and the habits that are our self identification.Jan Griffiths:
And there it is, you can build the greatest product in the world. But if you have a terrible company culture, it's gonna destroy everything that you've built. I love that quote, because it goes right along, in line with the mission of the podcast, and my business and my mission. And that is, we cannot transform the products in this industry, and win in the marketplace. Without also transforming the culture and winning in the workplace. The two have to go hand in hand. So where do we go from here? What do we do with this? What do you do with this, as a listener to this podcast, I'm sure you agree with a lot of the things that are being said here. So what do you do?Jan Griffiths:
Well, I was inspired again, I'm always inspired by every guest that bring on the show. And I quote, often, in fact, more often now than ever before, I quote, Doug Conant, who is the former CEO of Campbell Soup, he turned around Campbell Soup. And I'll drop a link in the show notes to the interview with him. His mantra is, you have to be tough on standards and tender hearted with people. We know that leadership culture is important. Everybody knows it's important. But then when we have to assign some budget or focus some time to working on it, it's usually one of the first things that are off the table. Because if we can't draw that nice, neat little direct line to the bottom line, off, it goes, Well, Doug, has a unique ability to balance, being tough on standards. To get the work that you want, get the results that you want, make sure that you see the impact of the bottom line. But he does it in a way that he is tender hearted with people. And he allows his authentic leadership to shine through. Doug not only turned around Campbell Soup with record results, but he also achieved the highest ever, employee engagement survey results from Gallup. He knows how to do both. And one of the ways in which he achieves these results, is truly understanding his leadership purpose and declaring his leadership purpose to his team. And I had never really heard about that. I mean, we've all got some things when people ask us when you go into a new company with a new team, who are you as a leader, and what are you all about? And you put something down on a PowerPoint and you know, off you go. But Doug takes a much deeper approach. And he says that you can never be afraid to bring your story to the table. In fact, he encourages us as leaders to do so. Here's Doug's leadership purpose: "I intend to help build high trust high performance teams that honor people defy the critics and thrive in the face of adversity."Jan Griffiths:
Wow. That's a powerful statement. Now it's time for you to think about your role as a leader, not your job, not the mechanics of your job, your role as a leader. The role of leadership is an awesome responsibility. We hold people's lives in our hands, we control their paycheck. Fact we do. And we can influence somebody's life, we can make it better, we can make it a wonderful, meaningful, challenging, awesome experience and culture. Or we can make it as miserable as sin. And I know if you're listening to this podcast, you're the kind of leader that wants to create a high performance team that wants people to feel challenged, that wants to get the best out of everyone. So where am I going with this? It's time to make your leadership statement. Now, Doug Conant has a structure that he uses in order to do this, and I'll put a link in the show notes to his book, The Blueprint. I actually did this with a client a couple of months ago, and I took them through a process and we went through we identified her values, her beliefs, and really took some time to understand it. And we developed her leadership statement, something that wasn't a direct copy of the company website, or some value statement that she cobbled together off a conference room wall. No, no, no, this was real. This was who she is, as a leader. And we put that together in a statement. And it's very meaningful, because clearly, she can articulate why she feels this way, which brings her story into the mix. But now here's where the magic happens. Then I saw her declare that leadership, declare who she is, as a leader, what her leadership purpose is, and what that meant for how she was going to behave towards her team. I was in the room when it happened. Is that is that a song in the room where it happened? Okay, I digress. But I was in the room, and I saw her go through this with her team. You could have heard a pin drop. And she said herself after the meeting. It was a magical moment, her quote, magic happened in that room, when her team saw her go through that and the level of authenticity and vulnerability and emotion that came through, it bonded that team to her, like something I have never seen. I wouldn't have expected that something so simple would be so powerful. Doug Conant clearly believes it. But Doug inspired me to use some of the principles from his book. And I saw the magic happened, it worked. I would encourage you to do the same.Jan Griffiths:
Ask yourself this question. Who are you as a leader? Here's some questions you can ask, is leadership a position to you? Or is it a choice? Have you chosen to be a leader? Why? How do you lead? Why do you choose to lead? Do you feel the need to control people or inspire them with conviction? Take a few minutes, please. And declare your leadership purpose. Who are you as a leader? If you need some help with it? I'm here I have a workshop to take leaders through this exercise. And it is incredibly powerful. And remember, stay true to yourself, be you and lead with Gravitas, the hallmark of authentic leadership.