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July 21 2006 04:33 PM

Each year I talk with hundreds of people just like you as I travel around our great country. Our best clients are those companies that have strong leaders in the distribution and logistics departments � individuals you know are unique from the very first time you are with them. There is something in their eyes and simply the way they conduct themselves. Their presence alone speaks volumes. It says, �I know what needs to be done, and I will make it happen.�
Leaders constantly and consistently communicate their visions throughout the course of their work. They know where things stand in their department, and they have a vision for where they want to go. They are willing to change existing practices. Indeed, they welcome any ideas that will help them gain greater results for their organization.
Leaders have a self-confidence that permeates the room. They are both learners and teachers. They have the ability to self-assess, which enables them to clearly view their surroundings and make unbiased, objective decisions for the organization. They have a strong sense of ethics and work to build integrity in their organizations. They don�t feel threatened by others who can help them � internally or externally. Leaders are very optimistic and open to change. They tend to be practical, logical and to-the-point.
Today�s world of logistics is not a steady environment. There is constant change, and flexibility is the key word. Too often, I see companies following a strategy that is antiquated with the times. What worked 10 years ago may not be the formula for efficiency and effectiveness today. Price and service has become a moving target that can blur the vision after a while. How do you guide your company through the maze of ground versus expedited, single package shipment pricing versus Hundredweight, delivery area surcharges and address corrections? It isn�t as easy as it used to be, is it?
Leaders are made, not born. You can develop the necessary skills to become an effective leader. In fact, your company and subordinates are counting on your leadership. Look around � without you, who else will do it? You must motivate others and lead them in new directions. You are most familiar with the maze before you. It�s your steps that others must follow. It�s either that or simply stand still and let the future pass you by. Are you up to the challenge? If the answer is �yes,� that�s great. But if there is doubt in your mind, then it�s time to answer the call. A lot of people are counting on you.
I highly recommend you get and read the writings of any of a number of leadership experts. One of my favorites is Dr. Warren Bennis. He has numerous books on leadership that provide great insight. Taking some time to read about the subject will give you an opportunity to reflect on your personal business style. How would you classify yourself? Are you a manager or a leader?
According to Dr. Bennis:
� The manager relies on control � the leader inspires trust.
� The manager accepts the status quo � the leader challenges it.
� The manager has a short-range view � the leader has a long-range perspective.
� The manager focuses on systems and structure � the leader focuses on people.
� The manager maintains � the leader develops.
� The manager administers � the leader innovates.
� The manager imitates � the leader originates.
� The manager does things right � the leader does the right thing.
Now how would you answer the question: Are you a manager or a leader? Pretty interesting stuff, I�d say. And very important stuff, I�d add! Companies, and departments within companies, consist of people looking for direction. Are you providing the much needed leadership in your organization or are you simply managing the operation?  It�s not too late to become a leader. It�s never too late to make a difference.
Joe Loughran is President of SmartTran, Inc. and an expert in parcel carrier rate analysis. SmartTran is a transportation consulting company offering services in carrier rate negotiation, guarantee refund service and logistics planning for nine years. SmartTran�s management team has over 60 years of experience in parcel transportation management. He can be reached by phone at 724-934-0626 or by e-mail at