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The Leadership Secret Most Leaders Haven’t Mastered

I admit it: I’m a bit of a leadership junkie. I love reading books about leadership, hearing about the newest theories and studying the techniques of great leaders. My passion also means that whenever there’s a new show on TV about leadership or starting a business, I have to check it out.

One of my new favorites is called The Profit, where successful businessman Marcus Lemonis partners with failing businesses to both bail them out and help them up.

It resembles Shark Tank slightly because Lemonis invests large amounts of money into these businesses. But it’s grittier too.

It’s not just about the money. It’s about turning the business around.

Recently, I watched an episode about a used car dealership that was about 7 million dollars in debt. Lemonis came in and offered the owner several million dollars to start paying down his debt on the condition that he would hand over control to Lemonis.

“I’m going to be 100 percent in charge,” is Lemonis’ catch phrase, and it fits. He takes the reigns, fixing broken things about the business and implementing better business practices.

Of course, the owner of the company protests at first. After all, it’s his business. But what it really comes down to is that the owner had no idea what he’s doing and Lemonis does. This is a repeating theme of the show.

In this case, the owner of the dealership had invested a good portion of his money in big screen TVs for the waiting room and an arcade in one corner. On the lot he had about 20 cars for sale—all unique, all luxury, all overpriced. So when customers would come in looking for a car, every one of them would walk away empty-handed because the selection was sparse and the cars were too expensive.

When Lemonis took over the dealership, he really took it over. 

He completely remodeled the showroom, filling empty space with car parts and accessories, making every inch of the expansive building profitable. He sold off the few high-priced luxury cars the owner had on the lot and replaced them with a whole fleet of more moderately priced vehicles that would actually sell. He even changed the name of the business to attract customers who had come and left empty handed—showing them that it was “a new day” for the dealership.

For someone who is 7 million dollars in debt, this sounds like a great situation: money, expertise and help; it sounds like an answered prayer to me.

But that was not the owner’s reaction. In fact, it rarely is. 

The common thread among the business owners on the show is that they’re all stubborn and prideful to a fault. They have a way of doing things they think is best, and even when the numbers are a flashing sign that their plan doesn’t work, they refuse to change their ways.

As the viewer, it’s infuriating. Even when the owner was 7 million dollars in debt, and even when he had a billionaire investor there to help him turn things around, he fought it because he refused to believe he could be wrong.

It seems ridiculous as you’re watching it. I find myself pleading with the television as if the guy can hear me. “Are you kidding? Do what he says!”

Yet when I take the time to reflect on my own behavior, I see some of the same themes.

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With over a dozen years of local church ministry Justin has spent the last several years starting business' and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv all while staying involved in the local church. Justin is obsessed with connecting people to people and lives his life daily to make the world a smaller place. He now serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominately working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people. He blogs regularly about what he has learned from making connection at www.justinlathrop.com.