Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Matthew Link, Link Group

Matthew Link is President of Link Group. The company manufactures and designs precision test equipment, makes custom cutting tools, designs climatic systems, and conducts full vehicle tests.

TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?

ML: As a leader and manager, it is critical to earn the respect of those who work for our company. I believe in surrounding myself with people who are stronger in certain areas than I am, and then I have to do my best to support them and allow them to drive the accomplishments of which they are capable, while also helping align our teams all around the world and guiding them with the same overall vision.

It is critical to be authentic and open as a leader, and to understand that listening is an essential element of leadership. I walk into a situation believing that people are truly good at heart and have the best of intentions. It is much more constructive to navigate situations and build trust if you do not jump to conclusions too early.

As a leader, it helps that I am also one of the owners of our company, but ultimately I believe that this style has worked well because we can all realize the best versions of ourselves when those that we work for, and work with, are open, honest, collaborative, humble and hard-working. This helps to motivate us, and creates a very rewarding environment. Ultimately, you must give one another the respect that you would hope others would give to you.

TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

ML: As a family-owned business, we are in the midst of moving from a small-sized to a medium-sized business with more and more activities around the world. It is critical that we continue to invest in the proper infrastructure and processes to align our businesses, have strong visibility of each unit’s performance, and allow for strong communication channels and sharing of ideas. We have also acquired several businesses over the past few years, and spending the proper time and energy in integrating those into our overall activities and corporate vision is essential.

TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?

ML: Employees who demonstrate ownership and accountability really stand out from the rest. It is essential that an organization has the proper amount of employees who are able to work independently and drive results forward.

Finding individuals who are humble and hungry, and who also possess the proper emotional intelligence, is a major key to success of an organization. Hire the right people and then put a lot of trust in them, and give them your full support.

[bctt tweet=”Finding individuals who are humble and hungry, and who also possess the proper emotional intelligence, is a major key to success of an organization.” username=”TheBrakeReport”]

TBR: What was your first job in Industry?

ML: I worked several summers during high school and college. I soldered PC boards and provided support as needed throughout our company. When I graduated from university, I started working in our test laboratory in Detroit as a Project Coordinator. It was here where I really gained appreciation for the relationships we have with our customers, as well as with our exceptional and dedicated employees.

TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?

ML: The best way to create opportunities for yourself is to roll up your sleeves and work hard ‘day in and day out.’ If you want to get to that next level in your career, whatever that level is, you need to operate like you are already there.

TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:

ML: I enjoy biographies on great leaders and great difference makers, as well as a wide variety of business books that give me great vision and ideas on how to run our business more successfully, from creating the best work environments for our employees to reaching high levels of customer satisfaction. With regard to reading for pure entertainment, I really appreciate a deep, thought-provoking novel with rich character development.

There are so many wonderful books out there, but one book that has been very insightful to me, and that I highly recommend is:

Good to Great” by Jim Collins

This book is rich in its content on what it takes to truly make a ‘great’ company. Through extensive research on 1,435 companies, over a 40 year period, the book identified the 11 companies from that research that truly moved from good to great. From the research results, as well as Jim Collins’ wealth of experiences, and his great passion to share his findings with the world, this book is extremely valuable to any individual who has influence on guiding/supporting/leading an organization. As you can imagine, with our business having been in operation for over 80 years, and with record growth over the past 4-5 years, this book is one we regularly reference.

In the ‘pure entertainment’ category, I recommend the following (just to name a few):

Kite Runner” & “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” both by Khaled Hosseini

Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver

The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson

TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?

ML: I love a good quote. There are many quotes from individuals ranging from Alan Mulally, Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to William Shakespeare, Helen Keller and Anne Frank, which I regularly reference, and by which I am regularly inspired.

I do not have a favorite quote, per se, but I would like to share the following quote with you, as it is from a great leader who found the pinnacle of success in his field and it touches on the importance of an individual’s character, as well as a key ingredient for the longevity of an organization’s existence.

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.

John Wooden, UCLA Bruins Head Basketball Coach

If I reflect on the success of our organization through the years, it starts with my grandfather’s vision, hard work and determination, as well as the fact that he could be depended upon to deliver. Our organization then rose to another level under my father, Roy Link, and it was his great character and set of values, and the true pleasure that he has always taken in working with others, that has launched us to the levels of success that we see today.

[bctt tweet=”If I reflect on the success of our organization through the years, it starts with my grandfather’s vision, hard work and determination, as well as the fact that he could be depended upon to deliver.” username=”TheBrakeReport”]

TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?

ML: While 5-10 years will go by quickly, the industry will most definitely evolve significantly in that timeframe. The automotive world will be magnitudes of times more connected in 10 years.  This will offer us many new challenges, and we at LINK are very excited for the opportunities that will provide us in delivering value to our customers.

It is amazing how exponentially faster technology is developing and obsoleting past technologies.  It is critical for us at LINK that we stay very close to our customers and to the overall industries that we serve, to best understand where they are going and what their future needs will be, as they undoubtedly will continue to work to be more environmentally friendly, more energy efficient and safer, while also striving to deliver an ever higher value to the marketplace.

I will not make any bold predictions, but I certainly see a significant increase in car sharing, leading to less individuals owning their own vehicle; the move to downsize many of the brake designs, due to less duty cycles, relying more on regenerative braking as electric and hybrid vehicles become more prevalent; a lesser demand for replacing brake systems over the lifetime of a vehicle, leading to reduced aftermarket sales; autonomous vehicles will be much further developed and will most likely be seen more regularly in concentrated city centers; and a reduction in heavy metal particles emitted from the foundation brake.  With all of this being said, in the case of electrical failure, all vehicles will still need to have the ability to conduct a full power stop, and with all of these changes listed above, there will continue to be a lot of activity around optimizing designs for such systems in the future. Safety of its passengers will always have to be the top priority for any vehicle manufacturer.

TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.

ML: I had the opportunity to travel across the US on a bicycle with a friend of mine. It was really a rewarding experience on so many levels, and while it offered its fair share of challenges, it really simplified life and allowed me to appreciate the wide and equally impactful variations of landscapes, towns and people that we experienced over those 67 days. As we move forward into an ever more connecting world, I highly encourage everyone to take time, every now and then, to carve out opportunities where you can simplify your surroundings and have a very rich experience, offering time for reflection and deep thought.

I am lucky to have inherited the traits of being adventurous, ‘seizing the day’ and making the most of an opportunity, that both my dad and his father had; from my grandfather moving from Germany to the US, and then establishing his own business, to my dad evolving our business into a much larger, more diverse, global organization. In addition, I have to also give credit to my mom’s father, who was an extremely successful businessman and entrepreneur in his own right; as well as to my mother and my grandmothers, who instilled the love, passion and compassion in me with their undying devotion, which is paramount to allowing me to be the leader I have become.

Read more Leadership Spotlights from The Brake Report:

Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Stefan Greimel

Brian Hagman
Brian Hagman

Brian Hagman is founder of Hagman Media, with platforms including The BRAKE Report, The EV Report, and Self Drive News. Brian is also President of Hagman Search, a specialized recruiting firm supporting organizations in the Braking, eMobility, and Automated Driving segments.