In The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I started with a list of character traits I called Mindset because I believe that who you are is more important than what you do, including the skills that make up the rest of the book. I am writing a book for sales leaders, and I am afraid that there isn’t going to be enough room for the list that follows, even though these character traits are every bit as important as what is in the book.
If you are a leader, you might look at this list to shore up any liabilities you might have that prevent you from helping your team put up their best results. You might also look at this list and measure whether you are doing enough to develop in some areas you need to improve.
Integrity: Integrity is something more than being honest. It’s more like possessing high moral character and a set of principles that guide your actions. In part, your integrity is what provides you with the moral authority to lead others. Leaders who lack integrity may occupy a leadership role, but they will find it impossibly difficult to lead others, especially when it comes to what is good, right, and true.
Caring: The order in which you look at these character traits matters a great deal. After integrity, caring is second on the list. A leader has to care about building the future and results, but she also has to care about the people in her charge. There are no great leaders who don’t care deeply about their people. The best leaders care enough to truly know their people, allowing them to improve personally and professionally.
Growth-Oriented: There is a difference between a manager and a leader. One of the primary differences is growth-orientation. A leader will insist that the people in his charge grow, becoming a better version of themselves, while also growing their business and pursuing their vision.
Accountability: Leaders are accountable for future results. They own the outcomes they are responsible for delivering, and they hold others accountable for their contribution to those results. The order of importance here is critical. Without caring and helping others grow, accountability becomes much more difficult.
Credible: You have to look and act like a leader to be successful, but you also have to know what you are talking about. This character trait is, in part, how you carry yourself, but it is also your knowledge and ability to help others produce results. Without credibility, you make it less likely that your team will follow.
Optimism: If there is a more difficult role than a sales leader, I am uncertain of what it might be. The challenges of leading growth are many. A leader must be positive, optimistic, future-oriented, empowered, and empowering. In an endeavor where there are wins and losses, keeping people moving towards the future requires a strong sense of optimism. When a leader is pessimistic, they will project that bias to those in their charge.
Decisive: One of the skills required of leaders is making good decisions. While making the right decision is important to growth, making decisions quickly and effectively is equally important. Recognizing that problems don’t age well and making decisions to remove them is good leadership.
Intelligence: Leadership is difficult, in large part, because it requires thinking strategically, envisioning the future, and making decisions, often without the information or certainty of an outcome. Even though reading is out of fashion, the best and most effective leaders have always read and studied their craft, history, and other leaders to improve their leadership intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence: Who you are matters, and how you lead matters. You can possess all of the attributes, but putting them to use as a leader requires that you also possess emotional intelligence. The results that you produce as a leader are generated by others, making these “others,” your primary concern. The greater your emotional intelligence, the better your leadership. This is not to say that you must avoid difficult conversations or lower your standards, but that how you do these things matters.
Candor: Candor is one part honesty, one part integrity, and one part frankness when it comes to communication. There is a benefit to leaders who deal with things directly and refuse to allow things to slide when they need to be addressed. That benefit is providing predictability when it comes to your expectations and the speed at which you can change beliefs and behaviors, but only if you possess many of the attributes on this list.
Teacher: Great leaders are teachers, which is nowhere more true than when it comes to sales leadership. Leaders teach the individuals they are responsible for, how to think, what to do, and how to do it. By teaching, they help others grow their competence and confidence, the foundation for growth and improvement over time.
Exemplar: A leader is an example, a model for others. On a flight one day, I sat next to a senior sales leader who told me when hiring sales managers to lead his very large team, he looked for people who were “crisp,” an idea that suggested that they were buttoned up, sharp, smart, and put together. He wanted his team to serve as an example for those they lead, refusing people who weren’t already successful in other areas of their life.
Any list like this is aspirational. Being competent in all of the attributes listed here is a lifetime of work on your personal and professional development. The first way you improve as a leader is by recognizing the areas where you need to improve and eliminating beliefs and behaviors that are liabilities.
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Filed under: Leadership