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Triumph Over Tragedy

Tire Review Editor Patti Renner discusses the inspiration behind the December cover story and the essential qualities of leadership.

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It’s been six years since the 22-year-old gunman showed up at the supermarket in Tucson where tire-dealer-turned-congresswoman Gabby Giffords was meeting with the public for a “Congress on the Corner” event on a Saturday morning in early January.

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According to reports, Gabby was shot in the back of the left side of her head at point blank range, the 9mm bullet exiting near her left eye. The shooter then continued to fire into the small crowd gathered nearby. In total, six people died, including a federal judge and 9-year-old girl; 13 others were injured. Investigators collected 31 shell casings at the crime scene. The gunman remains in prison today.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90% of those shot in the head do not survive. It’s a small blessing that the bullet wounded her left lobe and didn’t cross both sides of her brain, which increases her chance of recovery.

Honestly, I can’t begin to imagine pain that she and her family must have gone through – and the challenges of healing to follow. Yet even in the time of crisis, where some might shrink from the public stage after such a tragedy, Gabby instead provides another lesson, another strong example of what it means to be a true leader in times of personal adversity.

Having her on the cover of this issue was a great example of asking my favorite two-word question, “What if?” Those two words are the catalyst of possibility thinking – a powerful tool to help you break out of old comfort zones and step into the green fields where great ideas take root.

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Back in August when we decided to do an issue devoted to politics and tire dealers, the initial intent was to provide information and advice on being a stronger leader within your business, community and industry. But with the chaos of the 2016 election season and the polarization of people dividing into angry camps, we decided to take a different approach.

We asked, “What if?”

What if we could get Gabby Giffords to do an interview on her personaly experience transitioning from tire dealer to politician?

What if we could get a picture of her from the old days surrounded by tires? 

What if we could inspire you, the reader, to get involved in bettering your community, the industry or even our country?

The outcome is found in the pages that follow.

Personally, I believe that good tire dealers are actually great leaders. When you consider my short list of the five essential qualities of leadership, you can quickly see how so many in our industry fit the bill.

1) Communication skills – Leaders have the ability to share ideas clearly, to build rapport with their audience through empathy and understanding. Tire dealers do this every day with their teams and customers.

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2) Strategic thinking – Having the ability to navigate the complexity of situations, sometimes making tough, strategic decisions based on the information available, with or without the support of others, while also being flexible is a key part of running a business in today’s competitive environment. You also have to be open minded enough to adjust to new ideas and input when appropriate.

3) Personable – Politicians and tire dealers are very likeable people, most with a positive attitude and personal charisma laced with authenticity. Those qualities making it easy to inspire others and motivate them to do great things that align with a shared vision.

4) Confidence – Leadership means having the ability to focus, to take control and take action once a decision is made, following through according to plan with swagger and assertiveness.

5) Passion with Patience – Great leaders seem to maintain an unwavering commitment to their vision, beliefs and the people they serve, with a personal drive to make things happen. Tire dealers do this every single day.

In business or in politics, being a true leader starts with making a commitment. When you’re ready, an easy entry point to getting involved is through your state or national industry associations.

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TIA occasionally offers a Federal Lobby Day where tire dealers and advocates are invited to Capitol Hill to learn about industry issues and to meet with senators and representatives throughout the day, sometimes participating in roundtables on specific topics. Roy Littlefield at TIA told me that those who recently participated came away feeling like they actually had a voice, like they made a difference in shaping national policy based on their input on the issues addressed on that day.

As with most things, there is strength in numbers. Once you do decide to get involved, teaming up with like-minded peers can also be a win-win for your business. Getting together to advance a political agenda can often help to forge strong friendships. It’s all about the sharing of ideas – and when the topic shifts to work, you can bet that the other person’s perspective might help you improve your own.

Though no longer in Congress, Gabby remains an active leader, working to make a difference on the issues that matter most to her, particularly gun safety and responsible gun ownership. She continues to defy the odds, an inspirational example of overcoming adversity and true leadership.

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I’m exceedingly grateful that she took the time to be interviewed for this issue. I’m also thankful for those who helped connect me with her.

Regardless of your party or persuasion or ideology, getting involved can be as easy as sending an email or simply saying yes when asked to help.

Ask yourself, “What if?”

What if you got involved?

What if you helped change things for the better?

Your enthusiasm and expertise can make all the difference. Better to lead than be led by a lesser few.

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