Interview with Dave Anderson of Dave Anderson's LearnToLead

Exclusive Interview with Dave Anderson of LearnToLead

What is Dave Anderson’s LearnToLead?

A leadership training company I started with my wife in 1999 after leaving a $300,000,000 auto group. We’re based just north of Los Angeles. Our purpose is to provide the tools and inspiration leaders need to grow themselves, build a team and together advance their organization. Our philosophy is that nothing gets better in an organization until the leaders do.

How long have you been a Dealer Elite member?

From its inception over two years ago.

What do you like best about Dealer Elite?

The breadth and depth of its content is like a Library of Congress for the automotive industry. There is a wide range of voices contributing encouragement, best practices, and networking opportunities. The resources are constantly updated and relevant. The overall tone of the community is very positive, supportive, and giving.

What makes LearnToLead different from other training companies?

We specialize in leadership training and will not even train an organization’s sales staff until the leadership team has been trained in how to: recruit, interview, set clear expectations, train, coach, mentor, cast vision, develop strategy, and hold people accountable. In fact, our belief is that it is irresponsible to train subordinates and let them languish under untrained, overrated leaders. Our business is famous for taking live eggs, putting them under dead chickens and then wondering why they don’t hatch.

My perspective is different than many trainers in that while I started on the front line selling cars, I worked my way to a very high level within a large dealership group and was responsible for leading and developing dozens of managers. Frankly, you cannot export to others what you don’t have yourself and someone who has not led something substantial is going to have a difficult time coaching others to do the same.

I would also mention that my approach is quite direct and to the point. I can’t tolerate fluff, political correctness, blame or excuses and that comes through in my personality, material, and drive to help our clients get beyond being successful and to reach their fullest potential.

My philosophy for running my business on a day-to-day business is simple. I understand what my zone is--my strengths--and I've built a team that allows me to stay there. I've surrounded myself with great people who are good at the things I am not. I set clear and high expectations for them, provide the tools they need to reach their objectives and then get out of their way. I hold my people very accountable for results. While I'm demanding, I'm very generous in return for a job well done.

This all sounds interesting? Can you explain in more detail?

I conduct both private and public workshops; our private clients will make up approximately 85% of the 100 days I speak each year. We are blessed with very high customer retention, and do business today with many of our very first clients from 13 years ago.

Our online training is unique in that we own a large production studio and film new material that we add monthly in both leadership and sales modules. We believe it’s important to bring the most relevant information to clients as possible, and since business challenges are ever-changing we are obliged to help our clients stay at the top of their game. We also film two new DVDs monthly in our studio for our hundreds of DVD of the Month subscribers. In addition, we offer the Anderson Profiles, a comprehensive pre-employment assessment customized especially for the automotive business. It evaluates 24 personality traits and does an incredible job of predicting someone’s success potential for a position before you hire him or her. This has been one of our fastest growing divisions over the past seven years. It has helped our best clients to virtually eliminate hiring errors.

Do you also work with companies outside of the car business?

I’ve written twelve books and that has broadened our customer base into many industries. I don’t pursue markets outside of our niche industry—automotive—but neither do I turn it down as the principles I teach are applicable across industries. We have clients in banking, insurance, manufacturing, and more. The books have also opened the doors for me to speak in fourteen different countries, as they’ve been translated into multiple languages and are available worldwide.

What do you see as the biggest danger for the car business today?

A grave danger for any business today is that their operation becomes infected by society’s cultural currents watering down their levels of urgency, accountability, moral and performance standards.

Your business culture is your number one asset to protect because of the principle that culture dictates behavior and behaviors determine results. Because of this you must have a strong culture that aligns with your vision or the vision isn’t going to happen. Here’s the danger: If you don’t shape your culture from inside out with the right core values, performance expectations, shared mission and people, then society’s trends and values will shape your culture for you from the outside in. That’s not a pleasant scenario because much of society’s values are corrupt, perverse, and morally bankrupt: more blame, entitlement, instant gratification, political correctness, selfishness, and the tolerance and defense of acts that just a few years ago were taboo. We teach business leaders how to build high performance cultures that prevent society’s cultural currents from diminishing what they’ve spent their lives building, and show them how to weed them out and reverse the damage if they’ve taken up residence.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a manger but is not yet?

Begin to assume the traits of the position before you’re in the position. Read leadership books, attend leadership courses and begin to think and act like a leader in your current role. Show that, before you ask to manage others, you are able to manage yourself: your own time, emotions, work ethic, discipline, character choices and more. Understand that leadership is about performance and not position; a responsibility not a perk. You are there to add value to your team; the team isn’t there to add value to you. In fact, you need your people a lot more than they need you.

It’s also wise to understand that once you get a leadership title, that title doesn’t make you a leader; it merely buys you time to become one. It’s a foolish and arrogant notion to think that you’ve been made more competent by virtue of a change in title. It’s also helpful to grasp that you won’t automatically have followers; you will only have subordinates. How you act as a leader will determine whether or not those subordinates ever convert into followers.

What do you do for fun?

Fun and balance are important in our business because of the long hours and high stress levels. Our family belongs to a great church that enriches our life. My wife, Rhonda, runs the business operations, so we’re in constant contact and are together often during my speaking engagements; my daughter runs our non-profit foundation which helps keep us close. She’s also taking a much larger role of responsibility within our company. While working with family can be challenging, it’s a ton of fun if you do it right.

I have a library in my house with over 1200 books. I relax by reading, researching and writing. I’m a black belt in Tang Soo Do karate so I’m at the dojo working out and sparring every day I’m in town, except the weekends. We also have an ocean front place up the coast in Monterey that’s the most relaxing place on earth. It’s our favorite place to go for a break. I’m very fortunate that I still find my work extremely fun. I love what I do, which makes work and fun synonymous most of the time.

What is the Matthew 25:35 Foundation?

It’s a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation that my wife and I started several years ago to help the less fortunate. We provide food, shelter, clothing, education, medicine, and more to under-resourced people in the United States and abroad.

Our big project now is helping to build an orphanage in Chennai, India to rescue baby girls from infanticide and make sure they are raised in a safe environment. Ten girls have been saved to-date, but others are being murdered there every day simply because they are girls and the families believe they are a curse. Needless to say, we have a strong sense of urgency here.

We also partner with John Maxwell’s EQUIP, and I’ve been a volunteer trainer for them for the past many years. I teach a biblically-based leadership course to Christian pastors and business people in select regions of the world. I did this in Moscow for three years and have since trained leaders from the Underground Church in Iran for the past seven years. These leadership development courses help them grow their organizations despite the fact that expanding a church’s membership or starting new churches is outlawed. I’ll return this fall to teach this special group of men and women again and I can’t wait because I’m drawn to, and inspired by, their commitment. Some who come to these meetings are on death lists—they have prices on their heads. Others have been imprisoned because our course materials were found in their possession, but they come back again nonetheless so they can improve themselves, their teams, and their country. We obviously take security precautions: no cell phones or cameras and the attendees use nick-names so if they’re interrogated they cannot disclose the names of other attendees. These workshops are intense in that we all live together in a secluded place for several days, spending 24/7 together. I work through translators as I teach the classes, and that’s always a bit challenging.

People question the risks I take to work with these leaders every year, but that’s the way commitment works: it draws others to you. They learn from my lessons and I learn from their commitment. This is why I have so little tolerance for those who talk about wanting to get better, but are so utterly pathetic that they won’t even walk across the street into a library and check out a book that is free to advance their state in life. They claim to be committed to something, but the truth is they’re barely interested in it. With the resources we have available to improve ourselves in this country there’s little excuse for anyone in our business being either poor or stupid.  

In my opinion, volunteering always returns to you more than you give. It adds life to your years. Many people today are worried about adding years to their life, but if you don’t add life to your years you simply perpetuate the misery of your mediocrity.

What’s next for you and your company?

This is the year of our extreme makeover: we’ve just moved into new offices and doubled our space; we’ve got a new website in the works, and are also redesigning our entire online training platform—and we’re doing it all at the same time.

I’ve got some solid book concepts in the pipeline, and we’ve recently launched a new and comprehensive program for our top clients, Inner Circle Acceleration Training. This process focuses on advancing the growth of the top three to four people in a dealership. The growth you realize by focusing on developing the inner circle within an organization blows the roof off the place.

How would our dE member's contact you?

They can contact me through Dealer Elite, at, or 818-735-9503.


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Replies to This Discussion

This is just flat out....outstanding!

Dave - I always feel strengthened and encouraged after reading your books, blogs, watching your videos. I greatly appreciate your high bar approach to everything and the heart that you put into it all. My hope is to work with dealers you've trained. Keep shining His light!

Great stuff!

Dave, I can never say enough good about you my friend.

You're such an inspiration to me personally, and to so many others.

Your accomplishments in and outside of the business is for such a greater cause than meets the eye!

You are a great source of motivation for others to succeed.

Thank you for your class and kindness, I appreciate you more than you know!~ 

Outstanding man you are.................

Dave, it is great to know how well your family and you are doing.  You are an inspiration.

Awesome. An Inspiration to us all Dave.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with dE!

Thank  you for taking the time and sharing your thoughts,ideas and values with all dE members!

dE loves Dave Anderson's videos,blogs and daily comment.  

Excellent as always!

So True.

Bobby Compton said:

Dave, I can never say enough good about you my friend.

You're such an inspiration to me personally, and to so many others.

Your accomplishments in and outside of the business is for such a greater cause than meets the eye!

You are a great source of motivation for others to succeed.

Thank you for your class and kindness, I appreciate you more than you know!~ 

Outstanding man you are.................

Congratulations, Dave!!!  You deserve all the best...because you are the BEST!!!  Thanks for mentoring others (including myself) and keeping God in the forefront of every endeavor.  Happy Easter!!!


Larry Bonorato


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