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On the Lookout for Leadership

CHICAGO — As this is my 54th monthly column for this website, this also is my 54th attempt to get folks out there in front of that magical mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall … is there a leader in there?

In any environment, leadership is a compelling intellectual force that moves people to action through consistent motivation. Leadership is, quite simply, effective or ineffective. There’s not much room for the middle of the road. In other words, you’re either a leader or someone who thinks they are a leader.

My premise is that most leadership is usually ineffective. There is certainly evidence to support the thought that some aspects of individual leadership are ineffective and perhaps lacking, but there is also a great deal to get excited about. But is anyone really up to the task these days?

Leadership takes real leaders, such as tennis legend Andre Agassi. His passion is to educate kids, both in areas of academic excellence and personal development. He is an incredible inspiration and was featured in former President Bill Clinton’s book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.

Agassi has a proven formula for transforming the public education system into a successful, functioning operation that can be transposed. He has provided stunning leadership in this area, making a real difference in the lives of countless children and their families. He carefully used his resources and status to springboard his efforts.

Another example of superior leadership comes from Gen. George S. Patton, who stated, “I am sure that if every leader who goes into battle will promise himself that he will come out either a conqueror or a corpse, he is sure to win. There is no doubt of that. Defeat is not due to losses but to the destruction of the soul of the leaders.” This obviously means either lead or get out of the way so a true leader can come forward. Organizations usually cannot function without true leadership.

This same kind of leadership is necessary in sales. Leaders, or those in a position that requires leadership, must take charge and lead the selling conversation. We must demonstrate for our customer base that we seek what is best, as we work with others to provide a solution for their needs. How do we accomplish that?

There are 13 important rules:

  1. Take responsibility for the process.
  2. Desire to be of service.
  3. Ask probing questions, then listen and comprehend carefully.
  4. Take action and drive progress.
  5. Demonstrate commitment.
  6. Follow through and follow up.
  7. Communicate effectively through each selling stage.
  8. Represent your customer’s best interests to others.
  9. Lead by example and understand the challenges facing your sales teams.
  10. Lead your leaders and honestly communicate challenges to the leaders above you.
  11. Before you add on responsibility, make sure the tools and process are in place. Avoid overload and sales burnout syndromes.
  12. Avoid temptations to micromanage; use your time to lead and drive execution.
  13. Push for honesty and debate. Avoid the team members that just shake their heads. Never push your ideas as final resolution.

Customers are looking for leadership traits from your sales force. They want and need solutions. They want to feel confident that once they expose their needs to you, the solution process commences under your watchful care and leadership.

Titles have little to do with leadership; leadership requires true leaders.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].