Posted August 30, 2022

Research says distributors must rethink how they lead

New research suggests that the nature of leadership has changed as a result of the pandemic and other disruptive forces.

Future of DistributionAs a result, the human element will play an important role in leadership in a post-pandemic world.

Distributors across product segments, generations and geographies agreed with these two core premises in the new report, “Reimagining Leadership,” the first in a landmark triannual series of reports called “The Future of Distribution” from Dirk Beveridge, Founder of UnleashWD, executive producer at We Supply America, president of the Beveridge Consulting Group and champion for the noble calling of distribution for over 36 years.

The work highlighted in the first report was inspired by Founder Dirk Beveridge’s travel across the country during two seasons of the We Supply America tour, when he visited dozens of distributors and saw firsthand the challenges that leadership is facing.

“Distributors are experiencing a collision of forces changing how we live, work and play. 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 said.

This has forced distributors to rethink how they lead to ensure their relevance long into the future.

Core findings include:

  • 78% of the survey respondents agreed that the very nature of leadership is changing.
  • 83% believe we must lead differently coming out of the pandemic than how we led going in.
  • 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