It’s amazing how much air time the topic of leadership gets.
I’ll bet there are more business books dedicated to leadership than anything else. Some of these books are authored by corporate icons who have been in the fortunate positions to head high-growth companies; others are written about them.
I was following a discussion thread on LinkedIn this week, in which someone posted a question entitled, “How can there be so much written about leadership yet so little understanding?”
While I liked the first part of the question — so much written about leadership — I was a little suspicious of the “yet so little understanding.”
Surely, the author had the understanding that he was waiting to impart to the masses. As I suspected, whenever LinkedIn-ers would reply to the post, the author would respond endorsing or questioning the views of the contributors.
“Leadership is this.” “Leadership is that.” The debates went on and on. “Leadership begins on the inside.” “You’re not a leader if you don’t serve, like Mandela.” “Gandhi is the best example.”
O.K. Full disclosure. I’m a believer in leadership. I am convinced that it makes a difference — in organizations, in sales management, and in tactical selling!
O.K. Now for the “get over it” part. Get over it!
I don’t have time for people who want to be leaders, for the sake of…
… well, being leaders.
I admire every-day people who truly want to improve their leadership competencies in order to achieve something big. I get inspired by people who are focused on a challenging mission, and who get it done through engaging good people.
I’m convinced that start-up entrepreneurs will be more successful if they lead their early customers through the sales/buying cycle effectively. And I recommend that established organizations hone the leadership competencies of their managers, especially sales managers, and even their sales people… provided that they do it for the right reasons!
So here was my contribution to that LinkedIn discussion thread. Curiously, the thread’s author neither endorsed nor questioned my contribution. (Full disclosure again: I enjoy my “black sheep” status with the status quo.)
Leadership is over-glorified.
If you ask a working group to bullet-point key competencies of great team players, and then ask a separate group to bullet-point key competencies of great leaders, the bullets overlap about 90%. Outside of decision-making, one of the few remaining differences is being in a position to lead something… and I don’t necessarily mean “being” in a management position, but having the opportunity to lead something… something with a critical mission.
Today’s team players are tomorrow’s leaders. When people see this perspective, they suddenly stop pounding their chest about wanting to be leaders for the sake of “being” one.
I tell people to stop blustering about “being” a leader. Get yourself a project with a complex mission! Brush up on your team player competencies! Things will happen.
So, four days later, 14.May 2010, I feel the same. And I see leadership as critical to selling — and to motivating sales teams, sales brokers and… customers!
But do you see the really successful sales people pounding their chests about being leaders? Or do you see them almost obsessively focused on satisfying customers and, yes, getting deals done?
People like engaging with team players. Not everyone feels comfortable with Genghis Khan, or even Mandela, in their office. Get over the leadership trap.
Stay focused on the mission. Be a good team player. Leadership will happen. Get over it. And get on with it.
Photo by J. Frenzel http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfrenzelphotos/