Do You Lead or Follow?

Lisa Thal

Do You Lead or Follow?

A great debate revolves around the question of whether leaders are born or made. It is apparently easy to track the success of leaders over time and ascribe such success to their schooling or training, but do genetics come into play? This was the great mystery until several years ago when a study was published by the University College London. (Tim Elmore, “Are leaders Born or Made?, January 25, 2013). This was the first time researchers could show a link between certain genetic traits and leadership. The research supported that leadership skills can be learned, but the scientific study showed that leadership qualities could also be passed down through generations.

I remember my first sales opportunity in radio sales. It was a station in Wilmington, Ohio. I can remember how excited I was to begin my career for WSWO and WKFI (We Keep Farmers Informed). I showed up early to work on my first day to be greeted by the sales manager. He kindly invited me into his office to welcome me and he asked, “Do you have any questions? Let me know if you need anything.” I thought to myself, “It’s my first day and I’m not sure what to ask other than where are the restrooms and where is my desk.” At that moment, I realized my success at this point was not going to be led by him. So, I began to watch and ask questions of the top seller at the station. Linda became my guide and showed me the way.

I know that if ever I had the opportunity to lead a team, I would approach managing differently. Years later I was managing a station and was faced with a dip in our ratings and a soft economy. The combination was going to impact our revenue and my sales team’s income. This was a path I didn’t want to take our team down. I needed to create a strategy for my sales team to earn commissions to offset the agency side of their business. I decided to lead the way on generating more direct business, which is not impacted by ratings. The easiest way to do this was to show them how to do it, instead of telling them how to do it. I titled the program, “Help a client and help yourself.” The very reason we got into sales was to help businesses grow and create deep relationships with them. In the meantime, by supporting these businesses, we generate income for ourselves.

We created a list of clients who were not already doing business with us. We did our research and discovered a valid business reason for them to meet with us. From there, we created a creative campaign for them to grow their sales and, more importantly, to support them through a soft economic market. We would meet each day to set our intentions and measure our progress. The team gained confidence, helped each other, earned respect from their clients, and made more money.

What are ways you can serve as an example and lead the way in your current role? Do you feel confident when leading your team or clients? How do you inspire others to lead the way?

John Maxwell sums up leadership for me in saying, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

For more ideas how to lead your team with 3 words go to:

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