What Makes a True Leader?

follow-leaderBeing a leader is different then most of us think it is. Most leaders are actually managers in disguise.

Sarah was excited to be promoted to sales director. After all she has been in sales for almost 8 years and has always been at the top of the leader board. She knows she will really be able to help the other salespeople with their sales and they already look up to her since she had always been a top performer.

Colin comes to Sarah one day and asks her what to do about a customer who doesn’t seem to be making a decision though they really like their product. “I’ve tried everything” confesses Colin. I’ve offered free delivery, a 10% discount, I’m just stumped” Sarah asks, “can you get a meeting with the decision makers?” Colin says he thinks he can and Sarah says, “good, I’ll come with you and we’ll get it done!” Colin knows Sarah will and is eagerly dialing the phone while at the same time spending the commissions he is confident Sarah will help him win!!

Real Leadership is not managing. Telling someone what to do is absolutely not leadership. Neither is doing it for them. This reminds me of that old saying, “Take someone fishing, they’ll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish they eat for a lifetime” The idea of leadership is to get someone to self-realize what they can and should do make some decisions on their own. Once they feel good about what the answer is that they are looking for, they will continue to use that information and not have to “check in” with you before making that decision.

We often believe that to be a good leader you need to be outgoing and charismatic. That is often not the case. If you remember the old EF Hutton commercial. If you’re not familiar it is a room of people that are talking and talking but all of a sudden EF Hutton has something to say and everyone stops to listen. Often what happens is being a bit humble, a very good listener, it seems to really work well when it comes to leadership.

Here are some tips to create true leadership;


Stop being a parent to your salespeople. If you think about how we grew up, we asked questions to our parents as curious kids do, and as parents, they answer our questions immediately.   As parents they wanted us to know the answer. That’s fine but we are not parents to our salespeople. Our job is not only to get the answer to them but to get them to engage with us by thinking about the answer themselves. When they engage in the process with us, it becomes more their idea.


Help them feel empowered. Try this. The next time a salesperson says what should I do about … or how do I … try this, “if you couldn’t reach me right now and needed to make a decision, what decision would you make?” The key here is whatever they say, confirm and if its not right you can say and in addition to that you may want to say…”

You need to be a soft place to fall so if their answer is wrong using this process, you cant get upset with them making the wrong decision or they’ll never feel empowered again!


Let them be involved in setting goals. I am always astonished when sales managers/CEOs set goals for salespeople without any of their input. If you want to get them engaged and feeling that the goals are not just for what the company dictates, which by the way are most often never met, but this process should have the sales person involved in the process by not only looking at revenue goals but what are their goals? What kind of money do they want to make and why? What are the activities they will commit daily, weekly and monthly to achieve them? Give them the responsibility to come up with what they feel their goals should be and have them put the proactive behaviors behind it. Then review it together to see if its real. If it doesn’t meet your standards then push on them a bit. “oh I feel you are better then that. Don’t sell yourself short, lets relook at this..’


Look realistically at their motivation. Are they making more money then they ever have before? If so you often find that your salespeople are satisfied with the amount of money they are making but you aren’t. Meaning the commissions they are making may be great to them but they aren’t hitting the numbers you need them to hit. Motivation will come from them, not you so make sure that there is always a carrot and if the carrot stops working, you may need to change the ‘horse’.


You can’t motivate anyone to do anything. You can only give them an opportunity to motivate themselves. It may be easier to just do it yourself in the short term but remember if you do that now, you will always have to do that. Burnt out much?

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Greta Schulz

Greta Schulz

Author To Sell Is Not To Sell, columnist, Business Journals nationally, SFBW + others. Seen on NBC, ABC. Founder of Schulz Business SELLutions.

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