Though you wouldn't know it from many of the examples we're consistently exposed to in the media, from corporate executives, to politicians, to rogue heads of a variety of questionable organizations, the true leaders of the world understand, lead and live by principles and ideals that help them to make good decisions with complete integrity. All while preserving the strength of their organizations and caring for the people who have made those organizations successful.
I have studied, practiced and done my best to apply the principles of servant leadership throughout my life since I was fifteen years old. Though I've not always attained the standards of leadership to which I have aspired, I have seen true leaders across a variety of industries live out and uphold the values and principles I've embraced since I was a teenager.
These same principles, as relevant and valued today as they were back then, are interwoven into the DNA of every true sales leader I've observed to date. I believe it's time to highlight these principles so that we can get back to the core of what makes the leaders, and the organizations they lead, some of the greatest in the world.
Often, great sales leaders can be identified by the things they sacrifice to serve the people they've been given charge to lead. Below is a list of ten things that all true leaders surrender in order to be effective:
1. Placing Blame - Nothing erodes trust and respect amongst people faster than some arrogant child, claiming to be a leader, blaming people, circumstances, problems they've "inherited," or the lack of cooperation of others. Real leaders take responsibility, accept what currently is, roll up their sleeves and get in the fight with their people to make change happen.
2. Finding Fault – Any fool can look at something imperfect and point out its flaws. It takes a visionary to see the possibilities others don’t see in a person, department, organization, process or system.
3. Gossip – Many times it becomes painfully obvious that we didn’t actually leave junior high when we were thirteen years old. Office and organizational gossip can be extremely toxic, killing the morale and effectiveness of its people. True leaders avoid even the near occasion of gossip at all costs. When they encounter gossip accidentally, they immediately combat it with words of positive encouragement and truth.
4. Putting Results Before People – True leaders focus on the growth, education and development of their people even in lean times. They understand one simple yet powerful principle of building a strong organization long term: “If you take care and develop the people who take care of the business, the results will take care of themselves.”
5. Ego – I’ve seen companies and organizations fall because the person at the helm was to prideful to let anyone but themselves have the spotlight. Rather than seek the knowledge, wisdom, expertise and insights of the people in the organization who might have been able to develop innovative solutions, they put it all on the line, and compromised the future of others because they just couldn’t let go of their ego.
6. Being a Lone Wolf – True leaders understand that they will never accomplish great things in and of themselves. If they want to make a significant contribution, on any level, they understand that it takes a team to get them there.
7. Taking All the Credit – The only time a leader should take all the credit is when things go wrong or fail. Ultimately, the buck stops with the leader. Otherwise, credit, recognition and accolades should be shared liberally with all members of the team responsible for creating the successful result.
8. Keeping it to Themselves – The ultimate kiss of death for a leader, when an organization is going through any level of change, is silence. In these times the worst thing a leader can do is not communicate, that which he is able, with everyone across the organization. I once saw a CEO disappear for an entire six weeks after a changing of the guard and organizational take over. I would personally call for his resignation. It’s a proven fact that disclosure builds trust. When people are going through change, they can rally together and handle that change as long as they are not kept in the dark.
9. Inconsistency - Leaders must be consistent to be effective. Consistency earns the trust of the people following the leader. If people don't know what to expect from their leaders, they will push their boundaries until they do. Alternatively, they may completely disconnect from the goals and vision of the organization, costing that organization tons of money in lost productivity.
10. Acting Unilaterally - How arrogant and self absorbed does a leader have to be to make an executive decision without the guidance and input of his most trusted advisory team? While I believe there are exceptions to every rule, a leader that acts unilaterally, especially when it's not in the best interest of the organization, should be removed from his position immediately before he does irreversible damage.