Derby Management's "Competitive Edge" Blog

Leadership...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Thu, May 05, 2016

It doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or a Republican;  we are now faced with an interesting management problem.

More than 56% of the voters polled do not believe that either candidate will be an effective leader.

Hillary.jpgTrump.pngThe WSJ stats on Wednesday stated that one person is at 56%, and the other is ranked 64%, but the numbers are so ridiculously high, I can't even remember which number belonged to Clinton and which to Trump. 

Imagine coming into a sales management situation where 50% of your salespeople and your peer managers didn't think that you were up for the job?

But to a large degree, the ugly reality of the numbers is that there is an overall perception on the part of the majority of the American population that neither person will be effective leader in the execution of the job, and that we are most likely facing a long slog of ineffectiveness on one hand and embarrassment on the other. The last I looked, neither of those are good options, and I would hope that we are not going to enter another era of The Peanut Farmer years.  

This sorry state of affairs raises the question to me as to what true leadership really is. It also raises the question, of course, as to why are these two individuals the only choices that we can produce?  But, I think that you and I already know the answer to this.  I'd rather focus on thinking through with you what true leadership is since by really studying the subject and adopting a number of tactical tips, we can actually modify our behavior and make progress as managers of our most important asset...our salespeople.   

Just 5 Tips

Since there are tens of thousands of articles and thousands of articles and blogs on the subject, and then, we all have our own ideas, I thought that I would share this recent Northwestern article with you on the subject of "Authentic Leadership" and see if these 5 Tips  could be adapted to your own brand of leadership in managing your sales team during this very critical quarter.  Other than being the CEO or President, I don't believe that there is any more difficult job in any company than being a sales any level be it district, regional or national.  

I'd appreciate your thoughts.  I know in my own case, #5 is very difficult for me; however, I have stepped over the edge in this through my teaching at Tufts, when I ask my students to send me written evaluations answering the question of "Where could we/I have done better?"  In general, the course is ranked very high on campus, but every semester there are new...and better...ideas about content and direction that I would not have thought about by myself.

Five Tips to Become AN Authentic Leader

leadership.jpg1. Know yourself. “The cornerstone of authenticity is self-awareness,” Booth says. “It is about being comfortable in your own skin so you can lead the organization in a way where you do not feel ethically compromised or like a charlatan.”

In part, this means being aware of your unique character, values, strengths, and shortcomings. Decades of research on leadership shows that there is no one right way to lead. Instead, what distinguishes leaders is their ability to understand the impact they have on other people. “Many leaders are characteristically outgoing,” Booth says. “They thrive in social settings and give bold, inspirational speeches. However, more introverted types can be great leaders, too.”

Take, for example, Douglas Conant, a self-described introvert (and Kellogg alum) who became CEO of Campbell’s Soup in 2001—a turbulent year. Despite overseeing a period of layoffs, Conant was able to boost morale, achieve results, and earn the respect of employees throughout the company. He did this not by delivering grandiose, fist-pounding speeches at company-wide meetings, but by drawing upon his natural gift for connecting in more intimate settings. One of his trademark moves was to walk the halls, which allowed him to meet employees one-on-one or in smaller groups. And he always sent handwritten notes to those he wanted to acknowledge. “That was his version of authentic leadership,” Booth says. “He had a personal touch.” The point is not to find the appropriate dial on the introvert–extrovert meter; it is simply to be aware of your personality and use it to your advantage.

“Authenticity is not a license to be excessively focused on the self. It’s about being aligned with your character and values in order to lead effectively. That takes work.” - Brooke Vuckovic 

Perhaps even more fundamental than personality is understanding one’s values and purpose. One way to explore your values and purpose, Vuckovic says, is to take the time to review your life in detailed chapters, which can help you understand yourself in narrative terms. “Stories help leaders explain where they came from, what they stand for, and why they lead. All of this is related to the vision they project,” Vuckovic says.

“Most leaders are not driven by shareholder value alone,” she continues. So it is critical to develop a strong understanding of what motivates you, and how you want to motivate others. “Is recognition important? Is having a fun-loving culture important? The clearer you are about what motivates you and those around you, the more authentic and effective you will be as a leader.”

connections.jpg2. Learn to connect.  I'm known as "A Connector", and it is one of the skills that I pride myself on as a Coach, as a Professor, and as a venture investor.  I have the ability of connecting hundreds of people to hundreds of least in Boston

The author of this article writes that whether you are speaking to a packed auditorium or chatting with a single employee, it is important to make a sincere connection that matches the needs of the situation.

“This capacity to connect and demonstrate ease is a central component of executive presence. Those who demonstrate the qualities that make up ‘likability’ convey warmth, for certain, but also congruence,” Vuckovic says.

In other words, your actions should align with your words, and your words with your emotional affect. But being congruent also means adapting to the situation at hand. If a leader prepares for a large meeting but it turns out only six people attend, it might put others off if that leader insisted on formalistically sticking to the script. “It’s usually incongruence that makes people feel you are inauthentic,” she says.

Leaders should also be hyper-aware of the culture in which they are operating. “You want to be yourself, but with care,” Vuckovic says.

3. Be discreet. “Being an authentic leader doesn’t mean revealing inappropriate personal details, talking about yourself incessantly, or telling people how you feel all the time,” Vuckovic says. “The point of being authentic is that it frees you up to be others-focused. So you should always ask yourself before personal disclosure: Is this relevant to the task at hand? Does this contribute to this individual understanding my values and decision here?”

Disclosing too much information, especially if it is highly personal, can have a negative impact on a leader’s reputation and can call into questions their capacity to self-monitor.

There is also the question of how transparent leaders should be about high-level decision making. “Sometimes being fully transparent is neither prudent nor an option,” Booth says. Consider a scenario where senior management is discussing a possible reorganization. If a decision has not yet been made, it would not make sense to share this information with employees, since productivity would clearly suffer. And in the case of a merger or spin-off, top management must sometimes keep information confidential due to fiduciary reasons.

strengths.png4. Play to your strengths. Every leader has strengths and weaknesses. Some are good at boosting morale; others are good at ensuring productivity. Some are natural-born mentors; others prefer to keep more distance. It is important to know your limitations and figure out how to compensate for them...possibly by making sure other leaders can assist in playing those roles.

“If you need to impose cost reductions or cut staff, that would require tough leadership,” Booth says. “If you need to boost morale, that’s a different kind of leadership.” A single leader may be able to do both authentically, but not everyone has that range. “Some people are hardwired to be hard as nails,” she says, pointing to Donald Rumsfeld, who was famous in the intelligence community for ruthless efficiency. “He would randomly call first-line supervisors or analysts and ask them what they were doing,” she says. “He’s not the guy for boosting morale.”

SWOT-2.pngAs a follow on tactic as to what the author writes about, I would strongly recommend that you do your own personal SWOT assessment. Limit it only to three items in each category.


  • This is just for you.
  • Be honest.  It's your own personal assessment
  • Be blunt for your Weaknesses
  • Be bold in your Opportunities 
Remember the whole idea of a SWOT is to know your strengths, but to focus on and prioritize the actions necessary to get rid of your weakness and take advantage of your opportunities 

feedback.jpg5. Keep requesting feedback.

The toughest part of one of our consulting assignments and certainly, the toughest part of my being a professor is to, at the end of a semester, ask those open questions of...

- "What did you like most?
- "What could I have done better"
- "What could I have done to add more value?"

The author of this article states that authentic leaders welcome feedback, both formal and informal, though Booth cautions against worrying too much about popularity. “Being authentic is not a popularity contest,” Booth says. “People may not like what you do even if you are authentic. But if you focus on what is right for the organization, make ethical choices, and treat employees with dignity in the process, then chances are you will earn the respect of the vast majority.”

If the feedback deals with a known weakness...for example, chronic impatience, it is helpful to track your own progress. A leader may occasionally learn of a flaw they had not been aware of, say, awkward body language. They will also have to keep the context of the feedback in mind when deciding on how to respond.

Vuckovic takes the example of an introverted leader whose predecessor was a charismatic extrovert: “Someone might say to you, ‘I wish you would hold more rah-rah meetings like we used to. They got people really excited,’” she says. “And, let’s say that you’ve seen those and you know you can’t pull them off authentically and that you would be a poor imitation of another. First, you need to determine what those rah-rah meetings achieved. Was it communication? Socializing with others? Celebration? For you, it may better to achieve those goals in a different way or to support someone else conducting those meetings. Identify what is needed, and then determine the ‘how’ in a way that is authentic to you.”

“You need honest people to act as whetstones, to keep you sharp and in line with your values,” Vuckovic says. “But remember: you get to filter that feedback and decide what to act on. There may be times when you say, ‘I hear you, I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not going to change a thing.’”


time_now.pngWe're now one month into the most important quarter of the year.  Still lots of time left to make necessary changes, tweaks and mid-course corrections either in your leadership style or in your tactical planing if you find yourself even slightly below plan.  Having said that,  the time to make substantive change is now.  Almost anything you modify now, including your own leadership sytle, will have a positive impact in Q4.  



business_plans-1.pngAlso, since you've now deep into Q2, you just may want to put aside a day during the next two weeks to refine and update your entire 2016 Business Plan, or at least your 2016 Sales and Marketing Plans.  To get you started, click here and receive a downloaded copy of our Writing the Winning Business Plan, 2016 edition.

Another opportunity looking ahead to the rest of the year is to do the same type of "relook" at the basics of your 2016 Marketing Plan after reviewing our ebook on "How to Write a Marketing Plan". This consists of mostly solid basics and tactical structure stuff...which just might be the perfect thing to do right now.

...and, of course, if you just want to talk through some of where you are right now and use us as a confidential sounding board...or do a short Whiteboarding Session with any of us, just email me, and we will work out a convenient schedule.

Good Selling! Pay attention to the Basics...  

  Jack Derby 

 Head Coach  

 Derby Management...for 25 years
 -Sales & Marketing Productivity Experts
 -Business & Strategy Planning Specialists
 -Senior Management Coaches for CEOs & VPs

 Box 171322, Boston, MA 02117
 Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222 

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Tags: Sales Optimization, sales management, sales effectiveness, sales enablement, sales management training, sales leadership