Episode 118

AutoCulture 2.0: Leading with Gravitas

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Jan Griffiths is thrilled to share the news about her upcoming book, "AutoCulture 2.0," which is set to be published on March 7th, 2024. 

In this episode, Jan talks about the book's inspiration and commitment to transforming the leadership model and culture in the auto industry.

Jan dives into the book's contents, which include her personal story, industry experiences, and vision for authentic leadership. The book also features podcast interviews with visionary leaders in the auto industry, each providing a unique perspective on leadership and drawing from diverse backgrounds and experiences within the automotive sector.

Jan reveals three crucial leadership lessons she learned during the book's writing process. These include playing to one's strengths, prioritizing brevity and clarity, and embracing progress over perfection. 

With the release of "AutoCulture 2.0" just around the corner, Jan encourages listeners to get the book and embrace authentic leadership.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Transforming leadership and culture in the auto industry
  • The essence of authentic leadership and its significance in driving positive change 
  • Learning from visionary leaders in the automotive sector
  • Getting vital leadership lessons from a personal journey
  • Recognizing and embracing your strengths
  • Brevity and clarity
  • Embracing progress over perfection

Your Host

Jan Griffiths is the architect of cultural change in the automotive industry. As the President & Founder of Gravitas Detroit, Jan brings a wealth of expertise and a passion for transforming company cultures. Additionally, she is the host of The Automotive Leaders Podcast, where she shares insightful conversations with industry visionaries, and is the author of AutoCulture 2.0. With her extensive experience and commitment to fostering positive change, Jan Griffiths is at the forefront of revolutionizing the automotive landscape.

Email: Jan@gravitasdetroit.com

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[02:06] Book Journey: Hear Jan's journey, why she decided to write the book, and what the book is all about.

[06:14] Leaders on Focus: Get to know the industry leaders individually as Jan talks about each featured leader, giving you a glimpse into their take on automotive leadership.

[10:10] Jan's Key Lessons: Join Jan in discussing three vital leadership takeaways from her writing journey, emphasizing the importance of strengths, clarity, and progress.

Mentioned in this episode:

This episode is sponsored by Lockton, click here to learn more




This episode is brought to you by Lockton. Lockton redefines business insurance and people's solutions with a personal touch. Their global team of 11,000 is driven by independence, not quarters, to tailor success for your business. Discover the Lockton difference where your goals become their mission.

Independence, it's not just how you think but how you act.

Here's a fact that I found hard to accept: not everybody likes podcasts. What? I know. You know, I care passionately about podcasting. I believe it is the way to communicate an authentic message; whether you're talking to your peers, whether you're talking to an industry, or whether you're trying to reach people on the shop floor, I am all in on the podcasting medium. You know that. But I had to accept the reality, the harsh reality for me, that not everybody likes podcasts. About two years ago, I thought, okay, maybe we should write a book. And so many people over the course of my life have said you should write a book. And I have avoided it. I did not want anything to do with it.

Well, two years ago, I made a commitment that I would write a book, and it would be very much focused on the changes that we need in our beloved auto industry as it relates to leadership and culture. Yes, it would be a book about why we need to change the leadership model. Why the model that existed in this industry for over a hundred years really hasn't changed that much. And now, it's time to upgrade that operating system. When I say operating system, I don't mean manufacturing operations, that kind of operating system. I mean, the operating system that we use for culture and leadership, that operating system. It's time to upgrade to AutoCulture 2.0. You guessed it, that's the title of the book. Now, I agonized over the title of that book for months and months. We're almost there. The book is minutes away, literally, from being published. As I think back on the process of writing this book, there are three leadership lessons that stand out throughout this book writing journey that I've just been through. And I wanted to share those with you today, but before I do that, let me give you a high-level snapshot of what this book is all about. So yes, it's called AutoCulture 2.0, and the first two chapters will talk about the why and why we need to change our culture and leadership model in this industry. Then it will give you my backstory, not all the gory details, but it will talk about my journey from growing up on a farm in Wales, how I started my career with BorgWarner. And then crossed the pond and spent most of my career in Tier One businesses and, ultimately, leaving my corporate role five years ago to start Gravitas Detroit to focus on changing the leadership model in the auto industry and helping people truly embrace and nurture their authentic leadership traits. And you know many times I've talked about Gravitas. Gravitas. I am using that word. I'm expanding the definition a bit to the technical definition. Gravitas is the hallmark of authentic leadership. And I've defined 21 Traits of Authentic Leadership. So, instead of it being just this term that we throw about and everybody has a different understanding, no, I defined exactly what it is, and I have a document that does that. And so, the book talks about why I believe through the core of my being that authentic leadership is the way to go in this industry. After that, the book features certain podcast interviews with people that I've interviewed on the show; it distills and condenses the content of that podcast down to some key points. And then, at the end of each chapter, there's a call to action for you to think about for yourself, or my dream would be that you share the book with your team, and you use these three points to open up some dialogue and conversation around authentic leadership. That's the mission. It is to drive the authentic leadership model in this industry.

My first chapter is with none other than Stephen M. R. Covey. You know Stephen Covey as the author of the book, 'Trust and Inspire.' I was fortunate enough to interview Stephen prior to the release of that book. And he also believes, so it's not just me; I'm not crazy, that command and control is the leadership model of the past and his version of authentic leadership that he calls 'Trust and Inspire,' but we're talking about very much the same thing, is the leadership model that we need to move to. He says that using the old model in the current workplace that we're in and the transformation that's taking place in the auto industry is like taking a golf club to a tennis match. I like that. I like that analogy. I think that's great. And he's exactly right. Now, as if interviewing Stephen wasn't enough, he was gracious enough to give me an awesome endorsement and review of the book. And you'll just have to get the book, I guess, to read that.

Then, we go on, I talked to Dr. Andy Palmer, who you will know as the godfather of the EV. We talk a lot about culture. He has worked at Nissan. He was the COO at Nissan. He was the CEO of Aston Martin, and now he's extremely active in the mobility space. And we talked about how do you take really the best bits of the different cultures that we see around us in this industry today.

Then we've got Stefan Krause, who you will know as the former CEO of Canoo, former CFO of Deutsche Bank, and former Head of Marketing and Sales for the BMW group. Stefan really has experienced a lot coming from a German OEM and then being at the forefront of an EV startup operation in California. We share his lessons learned and how he approaches leadership. And it's fascinating, given his background.

Then we move to Sandy Stojkovski. Sandy is the CEO of Vitesco in North America. And she really believes and nurtures more of a coaching methodology and approach to leadership. And you'll hear all about that in her chapter.

Then we've got Warren Harris from Tata Technologies. You'll learn about vulnerability and diversity and how he focuses on organizational health. And what he learned from Pat Lencioni. We have a chapter focused on Jessica Robinson from Assembly Ventures. You know Jessica. She originally started life as a tea taster, and now she's a venture capitalist, and she is at the forefront of the mobility space.

And to talk about vision and mission, I could think of no better person than Jeremy McCool, the CEO of HEVO, which is the wireless EV charging company.

And then, we wrap it up with Doug Conant. And he talks about being tough and tender. If you don't know Doug, you may not know him in the automotive space. He was the former CEO of Campbell's Soup. And he talks a lot about your leadership story is your personal story and how important it is to bring all of that authenticity to the table. Now, he is the guy who turned around Campbell Soup. He's also the guy who got the highest employee engagement metrics that Gallup had ever seen, at 77 to 1. And you'll learn more about Doug in that chapter. And then, of course, we close it up with what do you do now? What do you do next?

So, that's the book in a nutshell. But as I've gone through this process, which took a lot longer than I expected. There are three vital leadership lessons from my book writing journey. It's an adventure and teaches you invaluable lessons, especially when you're on a mission to guide others in their leadership journey. So, I've gained some insights that go way beyond the realm of authorship and delve deep into the essence of leadership. So here they are: number one, play to your strengths. Please, it took me a long time to learn this lesson in my career and understand the power of delegation. How to empower people. Recognizing and embracing your strengths is the cornerstone of leadership. And in my journey, I realized that while my ideas were clear and my vision for the book was strong. I know exactly what I wanted to do with this book. I want to give it to the world. I want it out there in the automotive industry so that you can open dialogue with your teams and start thinking about authentic leadership and talking about it. The problem was that crafting the words, that part of it, it's not exactly my strong suit. I am a talker. I'm not a writer. And then, I discovered the concept of hiring a ghostwriter. I didn't know what that was, so I did some research. And I hired a ghostwriter. Her name is Audrey Mast. So, she's not so much of a ghost anymore because I have given her plenty of acknowledgement in the book. But that decision really exemplifies the leadership principle of knowing when to delegate. Now, I could have struggled through it, and I could have let my ego get in the way and say, 'No, I'm going to figure out how to be a good writer. I'm going to learn how to be a good writer.' But deep down inside, I don't want to be a writer. I am a creator. I know what I want to do in terms of leadership and what I want to do with the book. I didn't want to agonize over how to put the words together. And so, I hired a ghostwriter, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. And you know, I was listening to Dr. Benjamin Hardy the other day. If you don't follow Dr. Benjamin Hardy, you should. He's written several books, and one of them is 'Who Not How,' and in that book, he talks about that exact example of when he moved on in his career and decided to hire a ghostwriter. It doesn't take away from the ideas, the creativity, the structure, or from you being an author. It's just a smart thing to do. So, thank you, Dr. Benjamin Hardy, for that idea.

Leadership isn't about doing everything yourself. And I think a lot of us struggle with that. I know I did early on in my career, but it's about recognizing where your talents lie and where they don't. We can't be good at everything. By bringing a ghostwriter on board, I could focus on the aspects where I really excelled, conceptualizing and structuring the book. And I left the intricate task of writing to someone else. And believe me, I think you'll be pleased with that decision when you read the book. This collaboration, and it really was a collaboration, made the book better. But it also reinforced to me the importance of teamwork and recognizing my strengths. The second is brevity and clarity. To achieve brevity and clarity, you've got to, first of all, understand your audience. You've got to be concise and focused. And we live in a world where more often seems better. And I had this idea in my head that this book should be, oh, you know, about 250 pages because that's what a book means. And if it was anything less than that, somehow, it wouldn't be enough, but that's ego talking. If you really think about what I want this book to do, the purpose of this book, it's about brevity and clarity. It's about condensing and distilling all the leadership lessons from these specific podcast episodes. And presenting them in a format that's useful to you, the audience, so that you can get the information, consume it quickly and easily, and then decide if you want to do something with it or not. And so, I got my ego in check, and I resisted the temptation to create a 200-plus-page book. So, I focused on understanding my audience's needs. And I crafted a guide that was practical, relevant, and succinct. Right now, it stands at 107 pages. I think that's a testament to the power of brevity, but you get to decide. But it really is a leadership skill to distill complex ideas into clear, actionable insights. That is a critical leadership skill to be able to assimilate a lot of information and communicate effectively, and then make sure that the message is not lost in unnecessary details. You see this come out often when people give presentations. How many times have you been in a presentation, a PowerPoint, and somebody puts all these charts and data up there and tons of words on the PowerPoint because they're trying to show you how much they know? And that's not what it's about. It's about understanding your audience, deciding, and being crystal clear on what your audience needs. And how to communicate that understanding the flow of the communication process and being very clear. Brevity and clarity that's number two. Number three is embracing progress over perfection. How many of you struggle with that? Come on, be honest. I've struggled with this for most of my life, and I've got a feeling I am going to struggle with it for the rest of my life. I guess what's important right now is that at least I'm aware of it. If you had told me years ago I was a perfectionist, I would not have agreed with that. But a few people along the way have told me that. And as I think back, yeah, they're probably right. It's an ongoing battle between making progress and perfection. Look, this book took almost two years to complete. That's ridiculous. I could have completed it in far less. But it was a period of time that was just filled with procrastination, overthinking, and continuous revisions of the content, structure, and design. I don't even want to tell you how many hours, days, and weeks went into coming up with the book title and the cover design, but then I did something that I've often done in my career. And this is, I think, one of the most important leadership lessons for myself that I would like to share with you. And that is making a public commitment to the completion of the book. And I've done this before in my career. I remember standing in front of GM during a program launch in my last corporate job. and I was responsible for the supply chain and the customer, which was GM at the time; there was a history of launches where the supply base stumbled and fumbled, and there were a lot of issues right at PPAP, right at the, right before launch. And so, I made a commitment to the customer and to the leadership of the company internally that that would not happen, that we would launch on time, within budget, and that we would not have multiple issues at PPAP and at launch. And I did not have all the answers exactly on how I was going to get there, but I made that commitment, and I made it publicly. And it's amazing how powerful that is. And yeah, we did launch. Did we have everything perfect? No, but we were 95 percent better than we had been in previous years. So, I'll take that as a win. And so, for the book, I did the same thing. I thought, you know what, I'm just going to procrastinate over this forever and ever. So, I put a date out there. And then I booked a venue for the book launch. Now, when you start to make commitments like that, where you put it out in social media that this is going to happen on a certain date, and you actually invest money into booking the venue, then it's got to happen. Now, I will admit again that I completely underestimated the task, completely. I had no idea what was involved in writing a book. I do now. And I completely undershot it, but you know what? It's happening, and it's launching on time, March 7th. There's power to doing that. And so, often in leadership, I think we like to have a plan, don't we? And we like to say, 'No, no, no, I know exactly how I'm going to do it. And this is how long it's going to take.' And yeah, I know you've got to have a plan, but sometimes, when you don't have all the answers. You can't just play it safe. You've got to put that commitment out there and say, 'You know what, I'm making this commitment, and it's going to happen, and we're going to figure out how to do it.' so, that's something that I look back on this book writing journey and my career, and that's something that has worked for me. So, embracing progress over perfection and making that commitment to the end result. That is what propelled me forward. It forced me to make decisions and to make progress. So, this book was much more than an exercise in authorship. It was a journey. It really was a journey that made me think about the leadership traits that go along with that journey. And I hope that you found some value in listening to those leadership lessons as I've gone through this journey. I am beyond excited to get this book out into the world. And by the time you listen to this podcast episode, you will be able to order it. And I'll put a link in the show notes. So, remember, be you, be your 100 percent authentic self, and lead with Gravitas. AutoCulture 2.0 is on the way.

Thank you for listening to the Automotive Leaders Podcast. Click the listen link in the show notes to subscribe for free on your platform of choice. And don't forget to download the 21 Traits of Authentic Leadership PDF by clicking on the link below. And remember, stay true to yourself, be you, and lead with Gravitas, the hallmark of authentic leadership.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for The Automotive Leaders Podcast
The Automotive Leaders Podcast
The Leadership Podcast for the Automotive Industry

About your host

Profile picture for Jan Griffiths

Jan Griffiths

Jan Griffiths is the founder of Gravitas Detroit, a company committed to helping you unlock the power of your team through authentic leadership.
In January 2020, Jan launched the Finding Gravitas podcast where she interviews some of the finest authentic leadership minds in the quest for Gravitas.
Gravitas is the hallmark of authentic leadership.