Jim Taylor on How to Lead Best-in-Class Teams

With a leadership philosophy learned in the Marines, Jim Taylor builds empowered and successful teams at Transportation Insight

Jim Taylor knows tech.

Since finishing his duty as a captain in the US Marine Corps in 1995, the tech visionary has carved out a sterling career as an IT executive, planning, developing, implementing, and integrating transformative solutions that has helped companies such as Redwood Systems, Exel, ABX Logistics, and Total Logistic Control become successes.

Jim Taylor Transportation Insight
Jim Taylor, Transportation InsightPhoto: Sally Fanjoy

In 2011, Taylor joined Transportation Insight, a global enterprise logistics provider of customized and multimodal supply chain services to help manufacturers, distributors, and retailers maximize profits, enhance customer service, reduce cycle times, and increase supply chain visibility.

As senior vice president of information technology, Taylor is responsible for software development and charged with leading the teams for commercial products from vendors and suppliers, data center operations, telecommunications, and help desk operations.

He leads a staff of around seventy-nine, and empowerment is something that he tries to instill in his direct reports, allowing them to make decisions and mentoring them along the way.

When it comes to building teams, specifically in the area of IT, Taylor’s philosophy has been to leverage the foundation he learned in the Marines—“leadership by example”—and a servant leader mindset.

“You start with the individual contributor and understand the role and function of that person but also an awareness and understanding of that person,” he explains. “Additionally, in the field of technology, there are a lot of different factors that drive individuals—the challenge, the problem-solving, the artistic creation. The individual contributor usually works in a team setting, many times, only a handful on a task. But several teams across many disciplines are required to achieve the goal or objective or project.”

Therefore, he shares, it is the orchestration of getting the teams to work collectively, to understand how individuals work with their counterparts, that leads to success.

“It’s no different than a championship sports team, really,” Taylor says. “You trust that your teammate has your back and you have theirs. This creates a mindset that you are going to deliver, and you know that if you run into a challenge, you have a team that will be there to help you solve the problem. And they in turn know they can count on you if they have a problem.”

One of the most important things about being a solid member of a team, he adds, is having empathy toward your teammates.

“As a leader, one of the obligations we have is being fully aware of the individuals that make up your team,” Taylor says. “It’s understanding what drives them and what their interests are. What compels them and what’s going to allow them to perform in the best type of environment. Sometimes that means stepping back and engaging at the most rudimentary level, and that’s the individual.”

“As a leader, one of the obligations we have is being fully aware of the individuals that make up your team.”

In his opinion, there is a drastic difference between a manager and a leader. A manager, he says, should be someone responsible for systems and processes, while a leader is responsible for people and the human component.

“A leader has a commitment to the people that we serve,” Taylor shares. “A good leader is very similar to the characteristics around the ‘leading by example’ model. You have to be able to roll up your sleeves and show that you’re capable of doing what you’re asking your people to do. It’s about respect and taking care of your people.”

Taylor notes Transportation Insight is part of one of the largest economic industries on the globe, and it’s rapidly changing and evolving. Because its mission is so focused on providing excellence to its clients, it requires a lot of flexibility and fluidity by his teams.

“We have been involved in twelve acquisitions since I have been here, so we need to react to our growth through the organic and acquisition model,” he says. “When you take a look at our successes, the resiliency of the team to adapt to the constant pressures and shifts and changes is quite impressive.”

The company is currently working with Atlanta-based supply chain analytics company Agillitics on Project 1TI, which Taylor notes allows his team to shine. For this project, Transportation Insight looked for a way to take data from different carriers and their shipping patterns, aggregate that data, and provide deep and rich analytical and reporting information for companies to make a positive difference in their operating business model.

“Project 1TI is delivering now. It has the ability to provide our clients all the information in a singular means that provides deep and rich data visualization and analytics information to help them make better decisions about their business,” Taylor says. “Given the size of the project and the complexity of the project, we partnered with Agillitics to help deliver on that. They have a great reputation within the industry in the supply chain and have been instrumental in helping us deliver on 1TI.”

Agillitics’ CEO Tim Judge notes the privilege to work alongside Taylor and his team. “Part of the success has been our shared culture of setting a clear mission while entrusting and empowering our team members to make decisions in an agile environment,” Judge says.

Looking ahead, Taylor sees technology remaining a differentiator and enabler, and his aspirations from a career perspective are to continue to leverage technology to bring more and more value to shareholders, clients and the community.