The best sales leaders put an emphasis on servant leadership and vision. Like some of you, I’ve worked for sales managers who believed in the opposite of servant leadership, what I describe as dictatorial leadership. Their mantra was, do what I tell you to do and don’t ask questions. They were what I called the “IKE.” I Know Everything.
I don’t think of them as leaders because their priority is to look out for number one…themselves!
According to Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of the movement, Servant Leadership is defined this way:
“Servant Leadership is a non-traditional leadership philosophy, embedded in a set of behaviors and practices that place the primary emphasis on the well-being of those being served.”
is having the mindset that even though I’m the leader, my number one priority is your success. In other words, I’m interested in what can I do to make you more successful. There isn’t a salesperson in the world that wouldn’t run to work for a leader like that, and I’ve asked. Years ago, I asked my new sales team this question and I was amazed at the positive response.
Sales is a competitive sport. Sales leaders and the company keep score on sales more than any other discipline. Why? Because without revenue or sales, you don’t have a company. Therefore, the pressure is enormous. And the last thing a good salesperson needs is added pressure from their leader. They already put pressure on themselves to deliver for the company. It involves presentations, demos, managing customer objections, negotiations, contracts, building relationships and politics, just to name a few.
Great sales leaders know the challenges their salespeople have and want to help alleviate any obstacles, both externally with the customer and internally within their own company. Servant leadership is all about helping to bring down the barriers the salespeople experience in their day-to-day activities.
Successful sales leaders also have vision. They look at the big picture to better understand where their market is going. What’s going in their industry and the economy? What products and services are in demand and what will be the next big advancement in technology? What are customer’s asking for and how is our company preparing for the future. Wayne Gretzky is without a doubt one of the best hockey players of all time, because he didn’t skate to where the puck was now, but where it was going to be. Visionary sales leaders are one step ahead of their competition. Salespeople respect leaders who are looking down the road helping them be more relevant than their competitors.
Another point to consider with the competencies of Vision and Servant Leadership is the personality style of the leader. All four personalities can master these two competencies, but, as always, competencies can be more natural for one or two of the personality styles.
I believe servant leadership is an attitude that can be developed. Visionary has more to do with intuition, which is an attribute of the Blue and Green personality styles. We see that the Green style tends to be a natural with being futuristic and being visionary. Examples would be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs even though their title wasn’t limited to sales. In the area of servant leadership, the Blue personality which values relationships above all else would be a natural in the servant leadership role. Golds and Oranges can be strong in these areas as well, but they would have to make it a priority since Golds are more into process and organization and Oranges are into immediate results and winning, being the energizer of the team.
The bottom line is this: When sales leaders are visionary and servant leaders, the sales team thrives.
Here’s to good selling!