EDITORIAL: Develop Young Leaders Today for Tomorrow


By: Ryan Tilley, Tandet Group & John Foss, Trailcon

Misconceptions are a dangerous thing. They’re similar to assumptions and we’ve all heard the phrase that’s used when you assume things. We lead to break down those misconceptions. We lead to become more than we are today. We lead to build this industry up to its potential. We have to lead if we are to prosper.

There are a lot of misconceptions about both leadership and millennials. This biggest knock on millennials is that there are simply no leaders in this generation. They’re looking for that free ride, the handout or the path of least resistance.

The prominent misconception of leaders is that they are born, not made. In our experience, these two misconceptions are both wildly inaccurate.

The millennials in our industry are hardworking and eager to prove they can outperform the generation that came before them. They are pushing boundaries and bringing innovation into an industry that has lacked creativity and new ideas. They are pushing every day to be better, and they are showing signs of becoming leaders within their organizations.

The trouble is that leadership is a skill that needs to be developed. The core skills that you may be “born with” need to be harnessed, nurtured and improved upon. This is why we created the OTA LEAD program. LEAD – Leadership through Education and Development – is focused on the challenges facing emerging leaders in the trucking industry.

In 2013 the OTA launched its Next Generation Certificate program, an intensive leadership communication program aimed at inspiring and engaging the industry leaders of tomorrow.

The concept of defining who these emerging leaders were was left largely undefined.

Nonetheless, we received an immense amount of interest from all corners of Ontario, participants from Quebec, and interest from trucking associations across the country about this new program.

The response and enthusiasm from young professionals in the industry regarding this program was overwhelming.

Now in our third year of the program, enrolment continues to increase year over year.

There is a hunger for improvement, and those who have taken the NextGen program are looking for more. We are working hard towards building a second-year program with the Schulich School of Business focusing on improving critical business skills that will impact future leaders in your organizations.

Building off the Next Generation certificate program, the Schulich program will focus on organizational innovation and understanding how participants’ own thinking preferences can impact innovation in their workplaces.

The trucking industry has seen some wild fluctuations in business in the past 10 years.

From major volume booms in the mid-2000s to the struggle that was the Great Recession, it has forced fleets to constantly re-evaluate their investment dollars. While many businesses struggle with the costs of these educational programs in times of uncertainty, it is our position that neglecting to invest in your company’s future is not the area to save money.

Investing in your employees’ development is the ultimate benefit to an organization. It fosters a feeling of commitment and inclusion (something millennials are often seeking) and increases employee engagement significantly.

It also helps you, as an upper management team to identify the up-and-comers and help mould them into the future generation of leaders that your company will need to prosper. A mass exodus of knowledge and experience due to an aging industry is now a major driving force that has made companies realize that the leaders of tomorrow will soon have to become the leaders of today.

We implore you as the leaders of today, to identify those in your organization who are the future leaders. Engage them, inspire them, promote them, and consider enrolling them into OTA LEAD programs.

They will meet like-minded industry peers in similar points of their career path. Ideas on how to push the industry forward will be stimulated, fostered and shared, and they will bring these experiences back to your organization. These leaders of tomorrow will not just rise up naturally. We must make the investment in time, energy and education.

They want to LEAD; let them.

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