On July 22nd, Cheryl Miller was announced as the new CEO of AutoNation. She became the first woman to lead a publicly traded dealership group. In the days following the announcement, stock prices jumped 15%. That jump supports industry insiders who have said she is the right person for the job. 

CEO Miller appears to demonstrate the characteristics of expertise necessary for leadership success. At Meaning-Centered Leadership, expertise is described as wisdom, optimism, and humility. According to those who know her best, Mrs. Miller demonstrates all three. 

In an AutoNews.com report, the former chief officer of strategy for AutoNation, Ron Frey claims Mrs. Miller is smart and knows the industry inside and out. AutoNation lead independent director Rick Burdick echoed that in saying “Mrs. Miller is an outstanding executive who knows the business extremely well.” 

Perhaps nothing better describes Cheryl’s leadership expertise than her own words. In a Sun Sentinel article announcing her new post, Mrs. Miller said, “When things look bad, that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be. … You have to deal with today while always having an eye toward the future.” Maintaining a forward lean is essential for leaders to maintain optimism for the future. Optimism can create the positive emotions that lead to organizational meaning. 

 In our research, we uncovered that followers expect their leaders to bring their personal wisdom to the organization. Cheryl Miller’s words demonstrate that she has the wisdom to appreciate the role of relationships that are strong enough to withstand tension, “…you want a relationship where you challenge each other, but when you come to a solution, you come out aligned.” 

That statement combined with her description of getting input from former CEO Mike Jackson, “…what a fantastic resource to have in-house…” demonstrates that she has the humility to understand that getting input from trusted mentors is a healthy thing. 

With the backing of industry insiders, and armed with her leadership expertise, Cheryl Miller appears poised to ensure AutoNation’s future growth and success. Expertise is more than just knowledge; it is wisdom, optimism, and humility. Three traits that every great leader needs.