11 Leadership Lessons From The Freight Industry

Dec 13, 2021 8 Min Read
assorted colour filled freight cargo ship

Photo by Frank McKenna

Strong leadership is crucial for any business!

With an annual revenue in the hundreds of billions, the freight industry is undoubtedly one of the world’s largest and most profitable industries. It has gone through significant evolution over the years as transport systems continue to change and develop. Many freight companies have faltered and disappeared as a result of these changes. The companies that have stood the test of time are often those that are helm by capable, resilient, and innovative leaders. 

Strong leadership is crucial for any type of business and industry, but freight management, in particular, requires laser-focused leaders with unique skills and capabilities. In this article, you’ll learn about the top leadership.

1. Quality Vs. Quantity

Freight brokers move things from point A to point B. But it’s not just about movement. How and when this movement happens is essential as well. The customer won’t just be concerned with if their parcel arrived at its intended destination, but also if it got there in time.

Most freight companies will provide a guarantee to their clients that certain types of goods will arrive at the recipient’s doorstep within a specific period of time. However, a tremendous amount of work has to go on behind the curtains to deliver that promise. If any part of this well-oiled machine goes wrong, then chances are everything else will fall into pieces. And not too many things can hurt a business more than under-delivering on a promise. 

Managers in the freight business often have to make crucial decisions to keep their word. Sometimes it might be better for them to take relatively fewer orders then deliver them at record speeds than for the company to spread itself too thin trying—and eventually failing—to ensure the quality of service across the board. 

Good leaders will always have contingency plans to ensure that their decisions won’t tarnish the brand’s image and can benefit the business in the long run. If your clients and customers trust you to deliver high-quality services consistently, then you’re all set for longevity in the industry.

2. Technology Empowers Leaders

Today, the freight industry uses a range of tools and technology to streamline its operations. For instance, some applications make managing capacity, rates, and loads significantly easier. Here are some other examples of technology that freight businesses use:

  • There are also low-cost communication tools that allow teams to collaborate and work together more efficiently. These tools also make it easier to share documents with clients, which helps reduce errors and save both parties’ time.
  • There are apps designed to streamline the quoting process so freight businesses can cut down on the time they spend on quote preparation.
  • There are also plenty of software solutions available for brokers who outsource their freight forwarding needs or work with multiple carriers.

Supplementary read: Leveraging Technology in Leadership

Technology makes it easier for leaders to spend more time on the business instead of in it. In fact, People Magazine refers to technology as the driving force behind the modern leadership style. Technology doesn’t just allow leaders to automate some of their tasks, it can also help them influence and motivate employees, build customer loyalty, and focus on the strategic development of their organisation.

3. It’s All About The Customer

Once a freight company gives a customer an estimated time of arrival (ETA) to deliver goods, they have to follow through. It means that, to begin with, the estimate has to be well-calculated! If the company can’t stick with the ETA, it’ll affect their relationship with their customer. This is also why some companies use GPS-based programs to improve their service. 

In the same vein, maintaining a successful business isn’t just about getting things done; it’s also about how you get them done. Customer-focused leadership is the goal of most businesses, but it remains a theory rather than practice for many of them. To make customer-focused leadership a reality, change has to come from the top. Leaders should demonstrate their genuine commitment by establishing systems that put customer needs at the forefront.

4. Constantly Track Performance

Part of good leadership style in the freight industry involves constantly re-evaluating strategy and performance. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself: ‘what’s the opportunity cost?’ It means you should be thinking about and writing down (in detail)—what would happen if you did nothing different. You can even go as far as creating a spreadsheet with projected numbers based on two versions of continued business: one where you make no changes and one where you implement some changes or new strategies. 

This may interest you: Performance Reviews Need a Brand-New P&L

Think deeply about each idea that comes to mind—then select one or more that’ll have the most significant impact on your company and leave everything else out. Track these new strategies over time while continuing to do what worked in the past. If you want a chance to build a highly profitable company - you need to take advantage of every opportunity available to improve your organisation.

5. Balance Conflicting Priorities

Company leadership in the freight industry must be able to juggle a lot of different tasks at once. It’s not just about getting shipments done, it’s also about keeping stakeholders informed while still keeping the customer happy. This is where strong people skills come into play. 

Read more: To Be A Good Leader, You Need The Right Dosage Of Ownership And Stewardship

Dealing with multiple priorities requires good listening and communication skills, being prepared to give and receive feedback, and providing ample support for team members. A successful leader can do all this while still leading by example and showing appreciation for everyone who helps them get the job done.

6. Adapt As Your Industry Changes

Just like companies need up-to-date technology, leaders need to be aware of how the industry is changing. The freight industry has seen substantial change in the past decade, led by consolidation among carriers and within subsets of shippers. Technology innovations have also spurred change in the market, leading to dramatic changes in how logistics services are procured. A successful leader knows when to adapt, which means that they are always ready for whatever comes next. Adapting can lead to success when times are tough or even just different.

7. Data Is Power

Within a freight company, it can be hard to know who’s doing well in the group without record-keeping, especially when personnel come and go or priorities change. This is where data tracking programs come in handy. Most freight companies use software or app-based solutions for tracking shipments so that everyone can see what they need to do, when they need to do it, and which tasks are waiting on them.

A data-driven culture is just as important for other industries and businesses. In companies with a strong data-driven culture, decisions are informed by data analytics rather than experience or intuition. This is something top-level leaders need to strive for, as data-driven decisions allow them to quickly respond to shifting customer preferences and market trends.

8. You Have To Put In The Work

It can feel like leadership roles are filled by people who are naturally skilled at multitasking without making mistakes, but this simply isn’t true, even in the fast-paced freight industry. Even though it may seem like some staff members have been given a high-level position without putting in the work, the truth is that anyone who’s made it this far has done so because they’re constantly striving to better themselves. 

Great leaders can teach themselves new skills and constantly learn from their mistakes. They know what they don’t know and work hard to fill those knowledge gaps.

9. Employees Are Your Greatest Asset

A freight company—and virtually any other company—has to get this relationship right. A lot of a business’s success depends on its employees. However, although companies may want to keep their employees happy, this isn’t always possible. For instance, if your company is losing money or needs someone to take on more responsibilities, you may have to ask employees for more help before giving them extra compensation packages. 

Read more:

A successful leader knows when to cut their costs, even if that means working longer hours or implementing a pay cut. When a business improves, your employees will be happy to focus on growing their skills, taking on new projects, and learning from the best.

10. Reputation Matters

This item kind of sips into almost every other point listed above. In the freight industry, word of mouth is more valuable than ever. When a freight company is reputable and trusted by their customers and the public, they’re more likely to thrive. On the other hand, if the company is known for substandard services or constant delays, customers are going to stay away from them. The company’s reputation matters—a lot! 
This mantra is also true for leaders. If you’re known as someone who doesn’t deliver on promises or isn’t easy to work with, it’ll be harder for you to get new clients and grow your business.


These lessons can help you run a more efficient and more productive business. If you focus on the information above and use it to better yourself as well as your employees, then you’ll be able to take your company to new heights!

About Author: James Bolden is a trucking specialist. He has been in the industry for over a decade, imparting his trucking expertise through blogging. James enjoys hiking, skiing, and playing basketball.

Are you interested in learning more about leadership lessons? Check out the media below wherein Jon Tanner, Founder and CEO of MitchelLake Group discuss the digital learning, talent, recruitment and leadership trends in a post-pandemic era:

If you want to read more on the topic above, there is a good compilation of articles in this amazing learning app called Necole. Necole is a state of the art learning platform that curates personalised learning just for you. **SPECIAL OFFER - Use this code LEARNWITHUS and get a 5% discount on your subscription to Necole. To find out more about Necole or to subscribe, click here. This offer is valid only up to 31st December 2021.

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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