Rob Hackbarth, featured in CLDA Winter Magazine

September 23, 2019 - 8 minutes read

“Leadership is influencing another to do what really matters.”

With those words, industry veteran Rob Hackbarth kicked off a primer on leadership for the 55 enthusiastic participants at the Executive Leadership Summit.Through a series of comments and exercises, the man who has been a part of our industry for over four decades explained why the concept of ‘Simple Leadership’ isn’t so simple. He shared with the industry leaders his perspective, offering practical tips for enacting the principles of leadership in their respective companies. Hackbarth, who founded Hackbarth Delivery Service, Inc. (HDS) with his wife, Carol in 1975 launched his own second act in 2013, founding a company he calls Mondays are Great. He offers inspirational and motivational presentations on leadership, overcoming adversity, teamwork and creating a winning attitude.

For Hackbarth, the concept of leadership is personal because he’s lived it. “It takes all we have to give to become leaders,” he said. “Leadership takes energy, effort and emotion.” He explained that there’s a difference between lead- ership and management. Leadership, he said, is “Doing the right thing.” Management is “Doing things right.” Management is about disciplinary issues.

“Leadership is getting people to do the right thing because they want to. They do it because of what you and your company represent,” he said, adding, “For good management, you have to have leadership.”

Hackbarth emphasized that leadership starts with understanding what followers need to be able to commit their hearts and souls to the company’s mission. Hackbarth asked Summit participants what they thought their followers needed from their leaders. Answers included:

• To be inspired and encouraged
• To feel important
• A path and direction
• Knowing that you are all about them
• A person to believe in
• To feel they are part of something bigger than themselves
• To feel good about themselves
• The ability to be empowered; to make decisions whether they are right or wrong
• Trust in their leaders

Trust and a Why
Hackbarth summarized all these concepts in a single sentence: “They need trust and a why.” That trust includes trusting their company, at a minimum, to give them a paycheck. But trust goes deeper. Members of a company want to trust that their leaders care about them and that they will help them. Cultivating that trust means leaders have to create an environment where people can be vul- nerable enough to share their weakness. “If your people really feel you care about them; that you will be with them, and that you are willing to help them, they will trust you,” he explained.

As far as the ‘why,’ Hackbarth defined that simply as purpose. Quoting Mark Twain, he said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He asked participants if their employees could answer the questions, “Why are we here?” and “What is the purpose we have – as a company and as individuals?” “And, if the why of your job doesn’t pump you up, you need to be in another industry!” he added. Hackbarth talked about how know- ing the ‘why’ has empowered Hackbarth Delivery Service. “When people ask me what we do at HDS, I tell them we save lives daily. That’s our why. We keep the wheels of American commerce moving and we make lives more comfortable.”

Bringing that back to the industry leaders in the room, he asked, “What’s your ‘why’? Has anyone taken time in your company to share the why? If you want to deliver transformational leadership, you have to give people a purpose and a why. You need a mission and a passion about what you do. Whatever you deliver, you need to share that purpose to transform your team.” When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, the leaders of Hackbarth Delivery Service saw how their company’s ‘why’ played out. Despite treacherous roads, horrendous weather and the losses of their own homes, 58 of their 60 drivers made their way into work. “They had passion for the work we do,” he said.

“We tell the truth, do what is right and honor our commitments.” “They give of their heart and souls every day, and those days were no exception.” He summed up transformational leadership this way: “Give your folks a reason to trust you and give them a why and all the other stuff is easy!”

How do you lead?

Hackbarth led off this section with a quote from Michael Jordan: “You can have all the physical abilities in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals.” “Transformational leaders are the masters of those fundamentals”, he pointed out. When he asked Summit participants for their take on what those fundamentals are, they answered

• Empathy
• The Golden Rule
• Honesty
• Being ethical
• Knowing when to get out of the way and turn it over to the team
• Be kind but not weak
• Do what you do and lead by example.

Hackbarth shared his own leadership fundamentals with the group:

• Integrity
• Winning attitude
• Vision
• Bias to action
• Care
• Put others first
• Cheer others on
• Excellent communications
• Passion
• Practice what you preach
• Effective Management
• Kaizen – continuous improvement

The company he founded, Hackbarth Delivery Service, Inc., captures these fundamentals in the company’s Values Statement: “We tell the truth, do what is right and honor our commitments.” He explained the company vision this way: “In our company, there are no white lies. We tell the truth to customers, employees and vendors.

We believe in integrity. This is the core of our culture and our number one defense against our competitors.” He offered this charge to Summit participants: “You are going to walk out of this convention, and you’re going to walk into your offices on Monday. Ask yourself this question: ‘What am I going to do as an inspirational leader to help my people find the why that keeps them inspired?’ The answer will help your company hit it out of the park every day!”