Andrew Dawson speaks to the rewards of building a team of leaders
The late Al Rent, who was a fixture at Ball State University, told Andrew Dawson early in his career, “You are only as successful as people allow you to be.” The truism has grown to become somewhat of a motto for the manager of marketing and advertising at Muncie Power Products, a leading manufacturer of power take-offs and hydraulic components.
“I’m not sure I quite understood what Al meant at the time, but that quote has always stuck with me. As I’ve evolved as a professional, that line has come to mean so much to me,” Dawson said. “I have benefitted from the kindness, time and generosity of so many mentors. I would not be where I am today without them, and now that I am in a leadership role, I have the opportunity — really, the obligation — to give others the chance to succeed. What I believe Al meant, was someone has to not only take a chance on you, but they also have to support your development, and give you opportunities.”
For the past seven years, Dawson has overseen a team that manages marketing, communication and advertising initiatives that support sales growth and build brand awareness. Regardless of the industry, marketing is a function that is “always changing,” he said, but one constant has been Dawson’s focus on and commitment to his team.
My number one priority is my team
“There is a difference between a boss and a leader, and I strive to be the latter,” said the Muncie native, who has worked at Muncie Power since 2013. “My number one priority is my team. I work hard to make time for each of them, to listen to them, and to keep them driven and engaged.”
His team is empowered to engage in professional development
Dawson said he invests in his team through Shafer Leadership Academy’s range of professional development workshops and resources that help all people achieve their potential. Muncie Power has built a relationship with Shafer Leadership during the past decade and became an inaugural SLA member when the academy transitioned to a membership model in 2019. As a member, Muncie Power employees have unlimited access to SLA’s coffee talks, lunch & learns and workshops. Membership also offers discounted access to SLA’s foundational leadership training, Emergence, from which Dawson graduated in 2014.
“Every person on my team has been through Emergence,” he said. “It has provided each of them with a better understanding of how they work and communicate, and that awareness has led to a more productive and engaged team. We have the tools to communicate with each other, and we celebrate each other’s differences rather than seeing them as faults.”
Dawson said SLA programs have created pause for him to reflect about his leadership and communication style. The programs have also reinforced the importance of diverse teams and the benefits of multigenerational teams.
Shafer taught me to lean into those differences and to take a hard look at how I come across.
“We all come from different backgrounds, with various life experiences and skillsets to bring to the table. Harnessing these differences leads to rewarding outcomes, but it can be a challenge to know how to work with people who work differently than you do,” said Dawson, who graduated with a bachelor’s in marketing from Ball State. “Shafer taught me to lean into those differences and to take a hard look at how I come across.”
Dawson said he has a “tendency to interrupt,” which is difficult to imagine given his thoughtful and measured demeanor. “How I conduct myself has taken a lot of practice,” he said. “I actively work on patience and giving others the time and space to jump in and offer ideas and feedback.”
Leaders, he added, should be honest that they, too, are on a professional development journey.
“Leadership is not a destination,” he said. “I make sure my team knows that I put time and energy into being better for them, and they — in turn — want to do the same for me and our team. We have trust in each other and realize none of us is perfect.”
Communication and confidence are essential
The key to a good team, Dawson said, is communication. He works hard to “create time with people” so they have the space to share their goals, concerns and questions with him. Through those interactions, he learns how each person prefers to connect and share.
Breanna Daugherty has been a member of Dawson’s team since 2019. The marketing communications specialist describes him as honest, caring, genuine, and forward-thinking. He encourages them to take risks, lead projects, and work together to create a safe, welcoming and enjoyable workplace.
“Andrew has always been invested in my professional development. We have frequent conversations about what area I should grow into and how to handle various situations in the workplace,” she said. “He has always supported me in taking professional development courses, and the confidence of my boss has helped me feel more comfortable to grow and try new things. Through SLA’s Emergence class, I learned several leadership skills about communication and building trust that I would not have had without the course or Andrew’s encouragement.”
Grateful for mentors, past and present
Dawson said he, too, has learned many leadership lessons through SLA programs; however, it’s the relationships he’s built through SLA and his personal life that have inspired him to apply those lessons. Dawson’s parents, Bret Dawson, a production manager at CS Kern, where Andrew worked for six years prior to Muncie Power; and Tyra Dawson, a shift manager at Lifetouch provided a strong foundation to build upon. Dawson is also grateful for the example set by Scott Huntsman, senior executive director of sales and marketing at Muncie Power Products, and people like Al Rent who invested time with him.
Dawson’s servant leader approach has led him to serve on the boards of numerous area nonprofits, including Muncie Children’s Museum, Westminster Village, and Meridian Health Services and as a board trustee for the Hamer D. and the Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation.
I want to encourage the next generation to continue to use their gifts to benefit others
“I am working to carry on the legacy that was shown to me by so many leaders I knew and the leaders I represent through my board service. People like the Shafers dedicated so much of themselves to the community and continue to do so through their foundation. It’s inspiring, and it’s an honor to have a small part in making a big impact on our community,” Dawson said. “I want to encourage the next generation to continue to use their gifts to benefit others. Imagine the impact we can make if we all give a little for the greater good.”
Dawson lives in Muncie with his wife of 14 years, Dawn, and their four kids, Ella, Owen, Andi, and Zoey. In his spare time, Dawson helps coach his kids’ sports teams, watches baseball and occasionally hits the golf course.