Today, I’m going to be talking about leadership. I’m going to bring it back to sales leadership, but I’m going to start with some broader topics. The seeds for this were in a book I recently read, called Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made by David Gergen. David was an adviser to four presidents from Nixon to Obama, and really got to see leadership – the good, the bad, and the ugly – up close and personal. I want to start with the overarching theme of the book, and it really goes back to how great of an impact on the arc of success – on your company’s performance, your team’s performance your community – do you want to have? That’s the seed with which everything else unfolds.
Gergen posed a question – how do leaders navigate a world where their values and culture may not align with their followers? I don’t know if that sounds familiar to anybody. But I’ve had a lot of discussions recently with leaders, and I think it’s a challenge as we think about the multiple generations that we’re all interacting with on a daily basis, and just the rapid change in the world today.
And to that point, I think there are five things that we could work on, that really do help us ensure that we are providing good leadership to that whole wide spectrum of people that are followers.
- Understand the nuances of human behavior. What a great phrase that Gergan uses “the nuances of human behavior.” We at The Brooks Group talk a lot about this, and we actually have some great assessments to help with that – The Brooks Talent Index and the Emotional Quotient (EQ) Assessment. In addition, our training is really based on this idea of understanding those nuances, and that really starts with being self-aware. We all have to be aware of ourselves, I think, to really appreciate the nuances and others.
- Recognize the importance of humility. This came out of the Good to Great books by Jim Collins. Apparently, he started the book by dismissing the importance of leadership by saying, how important could one person be? Or how important could a leader really be in the outcomes? He determined that it was critically important, and the one trait he found that was critical was humility. He also had a second thought that I thought was really interesting. Collins wrote that he was “surprised at the impact of leadership and that the best leaders blended personal humility, with an intense personal will.” Again, I think as sales leaders, as company leaders, we have to have both of those – personal will and humility.
- Watch out for self-derailment. Often leaders trip themselves up, and it comes from not doing what you expect others to do. It comes from not following through on your commitments. It comes from pretending that the rules don’t apply to you. So, I think if you find yourself doing those sorts of things, you’re going to struggle.
- Learn from new models of leadership. We’ve seen organizations come to together very quickly over the last several years, and we see leaders communicating differently, we see leaders interacting with their teams differently. So, there’s an entire genre of leadership out there that represents a new model. I think it’s important to understand those and to take some best practices.
- Seek guidance from the past. I just talked about the new model, but there’s value in both of these things. We all have experiences, we’ve all learned lessons over life, and we have to reflect back on those. We’ve heard this phrase about history repeating itself. Mark Twain actually captured it very nicely. He said, “history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” I think that’s a great way to think about it – that it may not repeat itself exactly, but there are going to be some parallels. And we need to seek guidance from the past so that we can navigate those unchartered waters, using that experience.
I hope these things make sense. It was a very interesting book, and there was one last quote Mary Oliver wrote, that really touched me:
“Tell me what you’re planning to do with your one wild and precious life.”
I think that’s a great sentiment for us all to be thinking about whether we think about it in the workplace as leaders or just as people. I hope this added some value to you and that you find some helpful hints in it. We’d love to discuss it or debate it. Always happy to answer more questions, feel free to reach out at email@example.com.