In the 1974 James Michener novel Centennial, he discusses the "Lead Bull" theory. The Indians had to kill buffalo and had to do it without modern-day instruments. So they would get the lead bull running toward a cliff, and the whole group would follow. The lead bull would be running with such momentum it would be impossible to stop as he approached the cliff. The lead bull would get pushed over the side and all the bulls would follow landing down below. The Indians would come up and kill them and they’d have their food and their clothing, etc.
Recently, Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays talked about how he used this method to move the team in the right direction. Joe said, "The premise, in short, is to have the veterans lead the others in doing things the right way." Joe’s point is, in the clubhouse (your business is the clubhouse) you have to get the lead bulls running in the right direction and by doing so the others will follow.
The problem in your business is often your "Lead Bulls" want to run in a different direction. The more they run in a different direction the more disruptive it is for your younger less experienced bulls.
It’s not unusual for management to look the other way when it comes to the lead bull. Allowing the lead bull to do whatever he wants is often justified by management because the lead bull is a producer.
To reference another baseball analogy, Manny Ramirez played for the Boston Red Sox and other teams in major league baseball. Manny, though a great player, often did his own thing to the detriment of himself and his teammates. But, because he was such a good player, it was often forgiven by saying "that’s Manny, just being Manny."
In the end it tended to pull not only Manny down, but his team and teammates as well. You really can’t afford to allow "Manny to be Manny." Somehow, you have to get the "Manny Bulls" to help you lead the "baby bulls" or you have a whole house of "Manny Bulls" running wild.
The lead bull shows up in many places within a dealership and there is often more than one lead bull within the store and within the departments. It may be your top sales person. It may be your top sales manager. It may be your top technician. It may be your back counter parts person or it may be someone on the clerical staff. There are many lead bulls in any given organization.
Your job is to find them, seek them out, corral them, feed them, nurture them, and turn them into the lead bull they have the potential to be, not the lead bull they think they want to be.
Your best approach when dealing with the lead bull is to develop a one-on-one dialogue that allows you to appeal to the lead bull’s ego. It’s important for you to acknowledge to the lead bull that you understand they are the leader and you need their help in order to get the rest of the team doing the things we need as an organization to be successful.
Key words to use with a lead bull are "I need your help." Your sales pitch to the lead bull is, we need you to follow our processes, not because we think you need them, but because all the baby bulls do. And, if they see you doing them then we all win. There is no doubt the lead bull ends up performing better by doing so. The lead bull has been tricked again.
A lead bull can be a very wild bull. Wild bulls have to be constantly pushed, nudged, directed. Lead bulls like being around important lead bulls like you. They like being in the "in." It gives them comfort and fuels their lead bull egos.
Don’t think for one moment you will do a little dancing with the lead bull and they know the steps. The lead bull will want to go back to dancing freestyle in a New York second. Partner dancing is based on Lead/Follow. The Lead Bull will follow you as long as you hold their hand. Turn the hand loose and they will go into freestyle dancing faster than you can say "Geronimo."