canstockphoto7782725Do you have what it takes to lead your sales team to success?

What separates great sales leaders from mediocre ones? Here’s a hint: It’s not what they read, do, or say that makes the biggest difference. It’s who they are. 

This is what I took away from Dr. Travis Bradberry’s fantastic Entrepreneur article, “12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders.”

I was surprised by the first habit he lists: courage. His description of leadership courage took me back to my first job out of college, when I entered the management training program at a woman’s specialty store. I had an idea to re-merchandise a mediocre display. I mentioned my idea to a few seasoned employees, who all told me it had “never been done that way before.” So, I went to my manager, told her what I wanted to do, and shared the response I’d gotten from my colleagues. Without missing a beat, she said, “That’s the best reason I know for doing it.”

I have never forgotten those words and the courage she demonstrated with that guidance. Rearranging a display might not seem like a big risk. But she taught me an important lesson about not accepting the status quo. That was, in fact, leadership at its best.

Leadership: A Tricky Word

There are many great sales leaders with very different styles. This makes defining great leadership a difficult and often futile task.

So, I was pleasantly surprised by the unique insights Dr. Bradberry shares in his article. He starts by addressing the loose understanding most people have of this concept:

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. (Read the rest of the article.)

The Courage to Lead

As the title of his article suggests, Dr. Bradberry goes on to list 12 habits or qualities that great leaders have in common. None of the habits are about “what to do;” rather they’re about “who we are.”

He talks about how being authentic counts, and why generosity and humility really matter. But my favorite is still “courage.” Leaders become exceptional when they face adversity and have the courage to do the right thing.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, says it this way:  “The business of business is improving the state of the world.”

Do you have the courage to step outside the box, or do you take the path of least resistance and insist that your sales team does what everyone else is doing?

To learn more about the most effective—but most underutilized—way to prospect, check out my Corporate Referral Selling Programs.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.