What is Leadership?
The definition of leadership is too ambitious for this humble blog post: there are too many opinions and they vary to widely.
Let’s just say for our purposes it means guiding others to get results. It is the act of determining a direction and course of action that leads to extraordinary results. Surely is contains some serious amount of acting as a servant to those you would lead. And surely it is made up of self-discipline, optimism, initiative, resourcefulness, pigheaded determination, caring, empathy and emotional intelligence, communication, influence, closing, diagnosis, storytelling, negotiation, and change management.
Leadership in Sales
Great salespeople are strategic orchestrators. They lead the action of their team, and in many cases, they lead their client’s cross-functional teams. The salespersons role as a leader, much like an orchestra conductor, is to keep everybody on the same page in order to produce the end result. They lead from the front; their actions are visible to all.
Also like an orchestra conductor, the successful salesperson can lead others with far greater subject matter expertise in their domain than the salesperson may ever hope to have. They have the vision, they know the direction, and they guide their team to achieve the end result.
Successful salespeople lead from the front by going first. When they encounter a problem, a challenge, or an obstacle, they are the first to deal with it, regardless of how unpleasant. When an opportunity is identified, they are the first to exploit it.
Great salespeople lead even when they lack the authority to lead. They lead by behaving like leaders, owning the responsibility for the outcome that they have committed to and now own (more about this tomorrow). They lead up, making sure that use all of their skills and attributes to guide those that they work for in their own company—and in their client company—to achieving something extraordinary.
It is their ability to lead that makes them great and allows them to succeed where other salespeople would fail. It defines them as professionals, and differentiates them from the field of would-be competitors. It allows them to generate results though others.
When Leadership Is Missing
When leadership is missing, the salesperson cannot guide his team, or his prospect’s team to achieve the end result that he sold. Much of the time, the salesperson that lacks leadership skills ends up selling something that they cannot deliver, because delivering the result they sold requires the ability to guide a team of people. Instead, they hide. They are invisible.
When leadership skills are missing, others with greater subject matter expertise intimidate the salesperson. They lack the ability to lead these people to the result, the vision, and the outcome that they have sold.
When problems arise, and problems always arise, the salesperson avoids the problem or the challenge. They pass the blame to others. They avoid the unpleasant conversations that often lead to the successful overcoming of obstacles, and by doing so, they never achieve the breakthroughs they might have had they acted otherwise.
They believe that because they don’t have a title, they are not entitled to lead. They misunderstand leadership as something that comes with the title, not as something that comes with the taking of responsibility for an outcome, a result. Because they don’t believe they can lead without the title, they don’t behave like leaders. They don’t own the outcome.
Without the ability to lead, the salesperson lacks the ability to deliver the outcome he sells. Without the ability to deliver the outcome, his sales are false, and he will soon be discovered as something less than professional. He cannot achieve the outcome alone, and he cannot achieve results through others.
Great salespeople have the ability to lead. They have the ability to generate results through the efforts of others on their teams, as well as their client’s teams.
1. How do I define the word leadership? How do I apply that definition to what I do?
2. Do I orchestrate my team’s efforts to create the outcome that I sold?
3. Do I go first, dealing with the problems, the challenges, and the obstacles that inevitably arise in a complex sale?
4. Am I far enough up front to identify the opportunities that present themselves and exploit them?
5. Am I comfortable leading up?
6. Do I create my own leadership authority by owning the outcome that I achieve for my company and for my clients?
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