Jim Lill is the chief executive officer of Axion. MICHauto spoke with Lill about his leadership style and how he keeps his team motivated when faced with adversity.
What single person or leader has been instrumental in shaping your leadership style as CEO?
My father who said, “Wake up, work hard, and do the right thing.” I believe in leading by example. I’m the first one to the office in the morning and the last to leave. I take time to meet with employees and congratulate them on their successes and help them overcome their challenges. When faced with a compromising situation, making the morally right decision will pay dividends now and in another life.
What is an important lesson you learned early in your career?
Good things take a while. Be patient, be professional, and be honest and you will be successful. Have a plan. Stick with it. Tweak the plan when need be. Stay a step ahead of your competitors. Respect all those around you because without them you are on an island.
What are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?
On a very practical level, successful leaders must be adapting to the market quickly and with prescience. Technology and communications make for a rapidly changing business environment and require adaptation. A static business plan is one that goes backwards. Take some risk. Don’t be afraid to be innovative, but also be prepared to pull back when you need to. Intuition is a good thing, use it to evaluate people and situations.
What advice do you have for the next generation?
This might sound like I’m a contrarian, but good things come to those who are patient and stay the course. If you are good at something stick with it. If you’re with a good company, be loyal. Never stop learning. Knowledge is power. Seek mentorship and offer it, too. Seek other interests as the renaissance man always has a place in the business world and personal life.
What unique skillsets is the next generation of workforce bringing with them?
100% their ability to leverage technology, be creative and innovative, and to be generally “quick studies.” I’ve noticed that young people can easily pivot. They know where to find answers. They are more likely to speak up.
How do you keep your team motivated in the face of conflicts or obstacles?
“Slow and steady wins the race” is our mantra. There will be nexuses and nadirs, for each high and low there is another opportunity. Be ready, have a plan, then execute the plan. Be prepared to teach your co-workers about the failures of the past. Great leaders mostly have failed many times before they find real success. Steve Jobs came to mind, he had been fired from the company he founded and then was called back to the glorious leadership of his company and took it to unimaginable heights.