Leadership is undergoing a fundamental change, from controlling and managing the day to day to one that supersedes the bottom line.

Today, leadership is about making an impact and helping others find purpose and meaning.

According to our Future of Distribution research, 87% of distributors realize the needs of employees have significantly changed. Leadership styles must change with them. Leadership is no longer about giving orders. It’s about recognizing and nurturing human potential.

Still, from my conversations spanning warehouse floors to C-suite offices, “leadership” is a term that is used without much thought to its deeper meaning and purpose.

But when you listen closely, you uncover stories of humanity, from tragedy to triumph, many of which overlap and weave into the fabric of the company culture. At the center: people willing to go beyond transactional business models, KPIs and performance metrics and, instead, build deeper human connections.

Because when you help people fulfill their potential, the business fulfills its potential. And when you help your people achieve breakthroughs, organizational breakthroughs are close behind.

Whenever we talk about leadership, we talk about the people. We highlight the real heroes of the distribution story, the employees, who are driven not by their leaders but by a higher calling, something deeply personal and profoundly meaningful. I'm reminded of:

  • The 23-year-old driver whose arm tattoos serve as constant reminders of his spiritual beliefs.
  • The passionate worker who yearns not for mere recognition but for opportunities to grow.
  • The ex-felon who found salvation and a renewed purpose in life through the challenges he faced.

Organizations like Gustave A. Larson and Midwest Wheel Companies have perfectly positioned their businesses to capitalize on what humans genuinely yearn for.

To Scott Larson, CEO of Gustave A. Larson, everyone is looking for something bigger and better than themselves.

“People want a core system of beliefs and values that they can look to and live day in and out. Even if you take religion out of it, who can argue that most people don’t want to live a life of virtue? I believe the great companies provide that system of beliefs (core values)that their people can identify with and be a part of a mission bigger and better than themselves alone.”

Adam Clark, Senior Vice President, at Midwest Wheel thinks a business leader’s role should be helping an individual find fulfillment. “It starts with identifying an employee’s passion, their calling. You don’t do that by not interacting with the employees. You have to spend time with them to understand what drives and motivates them. The more engaged you are, by default, it will work.”

Employees don’t want to be led in the traditional sense. They seek a platform, a catalyst that enables them to chase their dreams, fulfill their goals and unlock their true potential.


In modern business, leadership must evolve — a shift from mere management to becoming a force that nurtures, inspires and uplifts. In this new age of leadership, we must redefine the axioms that govern leadership, steering away from the antiquated doctrines of authoritarian guidance and toward an ethos that cherishes the intrinsic worth of every individual in an organization.

It’s with this vision that we introduce a transformative blueprint for leadership that resonates at a deeper, more holistic level. Here are five principles of Leadership as a Force for Good, that I am often asked to expand upon during my keynote presentations and leadership workshops,

Use these as a beacon to foster an environment that taps into the human nature of each individual. These principles are not just guidelines but pillars that uphold a sanctuary where individuals can flourish, find purpose, and joyously contribute to a collective mission:

A System of Beliefs and Values: People are increasingly looking for a higher purpose or calling, whether it's rooted in religion or personal values. Successful organizations are those that provide a system of beliefs or core values. This allows employees to be part of a mission bigger than themselves.

The Personal Touch and Knowing Your People: Leadership is about genuine human connection. Before diving into performance metrics or KPIs, leaders need to know their people personally.

Inner Passion and Personal Calling: Leadership is no longer just about giving directions. It's about recognizing and nurturing the inner passion that drives individuals.

Work as an Avenue for Joy and Personal Growth: The concept of work is evolving. It's not just a means to earn a living but can be a joyous journey towards personal betterment.

Trust as the Foundation: Trust between leadership and the employee is a most crucial component, emphasizing the point that individuals want more than just to be led; they seek a connection built on trust.

Traditional notions of leadership have revolved around hierarchy and authority — paths that lead people toward achieving a company’s vision. Yet, as we delve deeper into the heart and soul of the industry, a different narrative emerges.

We have entered an age where humanity is rising to the top. The goal isn’t about the company but helping people flourish — in turn helping the company flourish.

J.D. Ewing, CEO of COE Distributing, believes it’s his responsibility to build a culture that supports people. The North Star guiding COE Distributing is personal growth.

“You need to make sure you are bringing value to your people. The byproduct of our culture’s intentionality is that the business flourishes.”

Business success as a byproduct. Amazing.

Ewing says the hardest part is taking that leap of faith.

“It’s believing, at your core, that if people are treated right and provided an opportunity to grow, the business will benefit and grow.”

The independent, family and employee-owned distributors I met on the We Supply America tour are Forces for Good. They see providing purpose and meaning as integral to long-term company health. They see the writing on the wall — that leadership isn't about directives anymore. It's about acknowledging the individual’s inner passions, building trust and enabling personal callings.

Midwest Wheel CEO Mike Callison put it this way for me:

“To me, culture fuels sustainable growth. It’s who we are. Not only culture with our employees but culture for making the customer our priority. These things tie together.”

By redefining leadership in this light, we can foster more engaged and fulfilled teams capable of meeting and exceeding their goals.

As we stand in a time of transformative change, I see us entering a new era. It’s exceedingly apparent that the role of a leader is to serve as a guardian of human potential, a facilitator of personal growth and development. In the words of renowned leadership expert Simon Sinek:

"Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge."

Leaders can carve out a future where businesses flourish not just through financial gains, but through the joy, fulfillment and growth of its people, fostering a symbiotic relationship that goes beyond mere transactional interactions to one steeped in mutual respect, trust and shared aspirations. Let us usher in this golden era of leadership, a time where leaders are not commanders, but compassionate allies in the collective pursuit of goodness and growth — as a Force For Good.