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Leadership Lessons For Sales Managers

Leadership, like class, is hard to define, but easy to spot.

Someone once defined management as 'the effective coordination of the efforts of the individuals in a group to accomplish that stated objectives of the organization.' Managers get results by establishing goals and working with and through people to achieve those goals.

As a manager, your success depends on your ability to:

- Find and attract career-oriented men and women who have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to do the job, who are motivated to work, and who will cooperate with you and each other, and;

- Develop and manage these people to meet specific performance standards.

Management is a process because it involves a series of skills. But management is as much attitude as it is skills. Managers should be helpful supporters, working to build trust and confidence, and seeking to improve performance by recognizing that individuals have different needs, motivations and aspirations.

That means, the more of a leader you are, the better manager you will be.

Happily, most leaders are made, not born. They are cultivated, shaped and strengthened by education, training and real-world experience. Understanding leadership AND management is a good way of becoming more proficient at both.

What is leadership? What does it take to be a leader? Here's a short course:

' Leadership means having a mission and inspiring others to be committed to it. The mission is everything; leaders approach it with enthusiasm.

- Leaders are agents of change; they make decisions based on a vision of the future, not just on established directions.

- Leaders take risks to make things happen that would not otherwise happen.

- Leaders need a combination of competence, integrity, credibility and authority. They're seen as being involved in a lot of things and able to answer a lot of questions.

Leadership is a collaborative, not individual, process. It's the ability to get people to do what you want them to because they want to do it!

- Leaders help people do their best.

- Leaders depend on themselves and act on their own authority, but they recognize the importance of others.

- Leaders ask questions and know how to listen.

- Leaders let others talk; they don't talk about themselves.

Leadership begins when people disagree.

- Leaders recognize that performance and progress are forged on the anvil of constructive conflict.

- Leaders are willing to be unloved! In the words of Admiral John S. McCain (the late father of the Senator): - People may not love you for being strong when you have to be, but they will respect you for it and learn to behave themselves when you do.' Try it; it works!

Qualities of an Effective Leader

- Leaders are purposeful; they have a clear view of their objectives and avoid digressions into irrelevancy.

- Leaders know their stuff; they have a thorough grasp of their subjects, when possible, backed up with hands-on experience.

- Leaders are prepared. No matter how well you know what you're talking about, choose appropriate ways of getting your message across. Avoid shortcuts.

- Leaders are enthusiastic, but season their enthusiasm with intelligence and appropriate humor.

- Leaders understand the use of drama. Dull is boring, so cultivate a sense of staging, especially when addressing a group.

- Leaders are confident and easy-going. Regardless of their management style, they speak clearly, projecting their voices and looking people in the eye. Distinct speech is a sign of distinct ideas; self-assurance catches on.

- Leaders maintain a positive attitude. They never speak ill of their organizations or of individuals under their management. The glass is always half full, never half empty.

- Leaders demonstrate the contagion of example. It's not enough to talk the talk; leaders must walk the walk.

- Leaders support their subordinates, giving them the widest possible authority and discretion, while keeping responsibility centralized with themselves.

- Leaders live the U.S. Army's motto: Adapt, Improvise and Overcome.

Leadership Makes Businesses Work

If management ability keeps systems operating efficiently, leadership identifies management needs and seeks systems to address them. If management skills are required to administer existing programs and systems, it takes leadership to create a vision of success, and get people excited about attaining it.

In short, leadership - provided by agency heads, sales managers and other members of the management team - makes businesses work. It enables them develop to the limits of their potential, then helps them break those limits.

Want More? Send comments and questions to

Management Online 'A 'Do-While-Learning.' Program, The Diversified Group
The Marine Officer's Guide, Naval Institute Press

About the Author

Bill Willard has been writing high-impact marketing and sales training primarily for the financial services industry for 30 years. Through interactive, Web-based "Do-While-Learning.' programs, enewsletters and straight-talking articles. And fun!


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