Success Can Be a Terrible Disease


No, the title is not an oxymo­ron. But let me warn you, reading this article can “sting” your emotional health.

Let’s complete a self-assessment. Listed be­low are six overriding behavioral characteris­tics of elite leaders. I’m asking you to stretch your imagination to rate how you think em­ployees would rate your dealership’s culture, i.e., not as you would like for them to rate your dealership’s leadership characteristics, but what you think is a realistic assessment. (If you really want to know – ask your employees to complete this assessment.)

Change Your Thinking and Your World Changes

The diseased syndrome that appears to be of epidemic proportions is – good enough is good enough. You don’t see this syndrome in the six characteristics listed in the assess­ment graphic. If this attitude is prevalent in your dealership, you need to at least consid­er the words of Ray Kroc, the founder of Mc­Donald’s, who said, “Are you green and grow­ing or ripe and rotting?” Good enough is good enough is ripe and rotting. I’m sure you would agree that is not a bright future for your deal­ership.

There are two sad realities. One is when a dealership’s principals have this attitude that drives the dealership’s culture. This can be particularly challenging when multiple fam­ily members are in the business and there is a division among them about owning the good enough is good enough attitude. Second is the fact the leadership characteristics listed in the self-assessment are learned. All leaders came into this world through the birthing process, meaning leaders are born. But contrary to what many believe, leadership is not a DNA-produced characteristic.

Think in terms that the characteristics of elite leaders are natural resources residing in your body and waiting to be developed. The beauty of this reality is you can have as many of these characteristics as you desire. You only have to 1) be self-aware of the need and ben­efits of using these behaviors, 2) be willing to exert the necessary self-discipline and 3) be willing to practice daily.

Rut vs. Grave

Our behavioral ruts or routines serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they provide con­siderable psychological security. I don’t mean to underestimate psychological security – it’s important to all of us, and our bodies long for it. But, on the other hand, ruts can become our graves if we continue to do the same things ev­ery day and try to maintain the status quo.

Elite leaders know their leadership devel­opment requires an effort that continues for­ever. That is, every day, they use their dealer­ship as a personal university to practice the technical acumen and leadership skills needed to succeed in this ever-changing world. These leaders are constantly challenging themselves to be better today than they were yesterday. Yes, they are comfortable with being uncom­fortable as they continually push against their comfort zones. These leaders are humble and know they are green and growing because there is no future in considering oneself or the dealership to be ripe as decay sets in, which is a terrible experience.

One of your most important decisions is to decide your epitaph: What do you want peo­ple to say about you as you leave their world? Green and growing or ripe and rotting?

Article Written By Larry Cole, Ph.D.

LARRY COLE, PH.D., is a lead trainer for and consultant to the North American Equipment Dealers Association’s Dealer Institute. He provides onsite training and public courses to improve business leadership effectiveness and internal and external customer service. Please send questions and / or comments to Larry at




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