Report Finds Distribution Leadership Must Adapt to New Demands - Modern Distribution Management

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Report Finds Distribution Leadership Must Adapt to New Demands

UnleashWD is unveiling a series of free new reports on the future of distribution, with the first one focusing on leadership. Get the details here.
FOD Leadership Social

Many MDM readers have probably seen updates from Dirk Beveridge this summer as he has traversed the U.S. while filming the second season of his We Supply America tour, visiting dozens of distributors and chatting with the leadership at each of them. The first season two episodes premiers on on Sept. 8.

Dirk Beveridge

Beveridge’s efforts to champion the “noble calling of distribution” over the past 36 years has resulted in a new report released this week by UnleashWD — the Chicago-based design, innovation and strategy firm that transforms legacy distributors into nimble and innovative market leaders.

As the first in a series of “The Future of Distribution” reports from Beveridge, the “Reimagining Leadership” report states that the very nature of distribution leadership has changed as a result of the pandemic and other disruptive forces, and as a result, the human element will play an important role in leadership in a post-pandemic world.

“Distributors are experiencing a collision of forces changing how we live, work and play,” said Beveridge, who launched UnleashWD in 2011 and is We Supply America’s executive producer.  “We’re also experiencing a great generational shift, which several distributors told us doesn’t get enough credit for the impact it is having. This confluence of change has accelerated over the past couple of years, leading to what we call The Great Redefinition.”

Beveridge’s emphatic speaking style will also be on display at MDM’s upcoming SHIFT conference, held Sept. 25-27 in Broomfield, Colorado (prices go up Sept. 1!). He’ll help bring the energy on the morning of Sept. 27 with a “Reimagine Leadership for Distribution” session, where he’ll share the results of some of the research from those aforemention reports.

The Reimaging Leadership report emphasized that colliding market forces and generational shift in priorities has forced distributors to rethink how they lead to ensure their relevance long into the future.

Core findings from the first report include:

  • 78% of survey respondents agreed that the very nature of leadership is changing
  • 83% believe distributors must lead differently coming out of the pandemic than how they led going into it
  • Despite recognizing the need for change, however, more than half of survey respondents said distributors are still leading in an antiquated way through managing and controlling, and just 6% believe businesses are currently embracing “the noble calling of leadership.” At this level, management is called by a higher purpose and is intent on making an oversized impact on and beyond the bottom line.
  • There is a 41 percentage-point difference between where leaders are now (managing and controlling) and where distributors said they need to be in the next five years (noble calling) if they want to succeed
  • 93% believe that the human element will play an important role in leadership in a post-pandemic world

“Distributors are at an inflection point. If they want to survive, they must chart a new course,” Beveridge said. “They need to embrace some qualities and let go of others that led to their success in the past. The ability to move quickly and embrace creative solutions must be a core competency. They must innovate the leadership role.”

The research results and analysis, as well as a guide for distributors to take action, are available free to download at

In an April MDM Podcast, Tom Gale interviewed Beveridge on this very topic of leadership in distribution when UnleashWD was in the middle of its research. Check it out here.

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1 thought on “Report Finds Distribution Leadership Must Adapt to New Demands”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with the findings of this research. As a former megachurch pastor, I brought the philosophy of “People Matter” to the distributorship that I have worked at for some 16 years and now am part owner of. Everything rises and falls on our people!

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