Redefining Leadership in Distribution - Modern Distribution Management

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Redefining Leadership in Distribution

Distribution leaders have played a mostly reactive role as conduits for products and services — but more are now taking on proactive approaches as facilitators and value creators. In a new MDM podcast, Tom Gale and Dirk Beveridge talk about how evolving leadership dynamics are changing the industry.

For those of you who regularly follow MDM’s coverage of the entire wholesale distribution industry, you know we can get pretty analytic and clinical in dissecting the numbers and fragmented nature of the now $7-trillion distribution industry in the U.S. and the key trends driving the sectors. So I was delighted to shift gears a bit to talk with Dirk Beveridge, founder of UnleashWD and executive producer of We Supply America, about the heart, the soul and the spirit of this industry. Dirk has been on a multi-year journey of exploring and articulating the topics of change, innovation and leadership. We had plenty to talk about!

Distributors have historically played a largely reactive role as a conduit for products and services — how can we serve? Dirk and I dig into how that role is changing, leadership and some emerging patterns we’re seeing in this shift to more proactive roles as facilitators and creators of value for supplier partners and customers. Part of the core value definition is around culture, for which Dirk has identified seven criteria. He outlines these in our podcast conversation, including dignity. “The dignity of the jobs that these distribution businesses provide, there’s real value in the work of every job, there’s dignity in what they do,” he says. “There’s belonging, there’s value. And dare I say, there’s real love in these businesses, when people have been working together for 20 years. It’s not transactional. There’s something special going on there.”

We explore what the definition of leadership looks like in 2022. “I think we need to spend some time thinking about what that means and how is it changing? And in this digital age, what I saw from the We Supply America tour and everything else, I believe we need to be more conscious that at its core, what we do is about people, and we have to continue to raise the consciousness of the humanity of business.”

I asked Dirk about what he thinks he might find in his research this year. “I believe leadership is going to be defined not by gender, not by age, or line of trade, or whatever. It’s going to be defined by values and purpose. As an industry, what do we value? What’s our purpose as an industry? In our business, right? And that’s what I hope to define is, what are some of those defining characteristics? How are we going to personify this leader going into the future, that’s what excites me.

“This year, we’re going to go meet the noble generation, these leaders who have unique ability to look at the future. They lean into ambiguity, they embrace technology. But there’s a set of values. And they are looking to make a real impact.”

I’m looking forward to hear the stories and the findings Dirk and his mission in 2022 will discover and share for the industry! If you are interested in having Dirk visit your business on his road trip this year, here’s more info on We Supply America.

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