Boyden Leadership Series: A Discussion with Daimler's Daniel Whitehead and Kirstin Hoskin

Boyden’s Leadership Series presents discussions with business and thought leaders from organisations across the globe. The series focuses on topical issues that offer executives, political leaders and the media insight into current trends in business and talent management in the global marketplace.

This issue features Daniel Whitehead, Managing Director, Daimler Truck & Bus Australia/New Zealand and Kirstin Hoskin, Dealer Principal, Daimler Trucks Melbourne, which includes the Freightliner, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz brands. In the interview, they discuss the China slowdown, why downturns create positive leadership opportunities, management skills in the truck and bus sector, diversity initiatives and the rewards of giving women an equal chance, and selling Daimler to the next generation of talent.

Daniel Whitehead is the Managing Director of Daimler Truck & Bus Australia/New Zealand’s operations and is responsible for overseeing all departments within the Daimler Truck & Bus Business Unit, incorporating Freightliner Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Buses, Fuso Truck & Bus, Own Retail, Parts, Homologation, Engineering & Certification, Dealer Development, Marketing, and Controlling & Finance, and a member of the Board of Management of the operating entity Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd.

Kirstin Hoskin, Dealer Principal of Daimler Trucks Melbourne Somerton, heads up DTB’s Melbourne-based factory owned dealership, representing the full brand portfolio of Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso. After joining Mercedes-Benz New Zealand Ltd. in 2012 in a human resource management capacity, she was promoted into senior management and relocated to Australia in 2013.

Boyden: How has the dynamic of the business changed in the past year?

Whitehead:The market itself here’s been really tough, but not much has changed. The market is still basically at post-GFC [global financial crisis] levels in Australia, which here was not nearly as bad as it was in places like the US. Everyone’s been expecting the market to come back up to where it used to be, though now there’s a general acceptance that the downturn has created a much more efficient transport industry and it’s never going to go back up to where it was. The utilisation rates and everything about customers has changed a lot. This forces a bit more exposure for everybody: When the market is really good, everybody can get away with not being as good as they could be. The market slowdowns drive every person to look at everything they do and why.

I think it’s actually reasonably healthy, when you look at profitability and costs and market share for us, across our brands. In terms of our three major brands, we’re much healthier than we were 12 months ago. And when we look forward, it looks even better.

Boyden: What is most important in management and related skill sets in the truck and bus sector compared to other sectors?

Hoskin: I believe compared to other sectors there is no difference. Leadership has a universal attribute whereby the success of the industry and organisation within it is down to the quality and strength of its leaders. When I think about what’s most important in terms of leadership success, I would say the severity of determination is key and the ability to inspire others to follow. It’s a combination of qualities – having a clear vision and aligning people, processes and strategy is crucial to growth.

There’s a vast difference between leaders and those who lead. For example a leader by title knows what needs to get done, whereas those who lead know why they do it. It’s connected to their own internal belief and connection to the organisation. It is these leaders that leave a legacy. They are often selfless in pursuit of the organisation’s vision.

It confirms for me what is most important in management, and the related skill set is the ability to inspire others and have clear vision. The commercial vehicles industry in this respect is no different from any other industry. The industry you work in does not define the quality of leadership; it’s the other way around.

To read the full interview, click here.

Thought leadership category