Ashley Anna McHugh
Special to the State Gazette
Many sales managers want to be leaders, but they have trouble motivating their team to willingly follow them. While they see themselves as a leader, others don't. What makes others willing to follow you as a leader? How can you move beyond management, and make yourself stand out?
Professors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner have been researching this question for over 30 years, and they've received more than 1 million responses to their leadership assessment over that time, which they write about in their book "The Truth About Leadership."
In their leadership assessment, they outline 20 characteristics of great leaders--everything from dependable to inspirational, from honest to courageous--and they ask professionals to choose the seven they think are most important.
There are only four characteristics that are chosen over 60 percent of the time:
1. Honest (85 percent)
2. Forward-Looking (70 percent)
3. Inspirational (69 percent)
4. Competent (64 percent)
The next most commonly selected characteristic is Intelligence, and it's only selected 42 percent of the time. If you want to be seen as a leader in your organization, the best way to start is by showing that you have these four traits.
However, could one be more important than the others? What if you could only choose one characteristic for a leader?
While you might suspect that you should focus on being honest, the truth is that there's only one of these characteristics that will set you apart as a leader. While 70 percent of respondents admired leaders who were forward-looking, only 27 percent found that trait present in a colleague. No other trait showed such a drastic difference.
This finding can teach us an important lesson about sales leadership. If you're trying to set yourself apart as a leader, the one trait that will make the biggest difference in how others perceive you is whether or not you're forward-looking.
If you want to be seen as a sales leader, not just a manager, focus on the future. Talk with your sales team about the big picture, explaining how they can contribute to that vision. Help your team see beyond sales calls and close ratios to the big picture.
When you're reviewing the sales figures with your team, make sure that you're sharing your vision so that your team can be inspired to work toward what the future holds. Help them look beyond individual and team targets to see that their sales are building toward something bigger than a commission.
If you want to move beyond sales management, don't just focus on the responsibilities that face you every day. Instead, take time to think hard about the future, sharing that vision with every member of your team.
After all, you can't lead your sales team anywhere if you don't know where you're going.
Ashley Anna McHugh is a training and development strategist at RedRover, and she can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.