Almost everyone in business—owners, CEOs, presidents, VPs, managers, and department heads—wants to be perceived as leaders not only by those who report to them, but also by those to whom they report. Salespeople, too, want to be viewed as leaders by their peers and customers. But, what makes one a leader?
Being a leader is like being a lady; if you have to go around telling people you are one, you aren't. – Margaret Thatcher
There has been much written about leadership and how to develop leadership talents. Many of today’s leaders, in business and politics, equate leadership with popularity. They take polls and surveys to find out what’s popular and then try to adopt that stance. They attempt to be all things to all people…and end up being nothing to no one. Popularity is not leadership.
Lead, follow, or get out of the way. – Thomas Paine
True leaders have one common trait. They have vision—belief in a cause. And, that cause is not about personal ambition. It’s something bigger—bigger than them. Personal ambition may motivate an individual, but it won’t motivate others to follow.
Leadership is about taking a position to further the cause, knowing that it will draw criticism. It’s about ducking the bullets and firing back. It’s about conviction and keeping the vision in focus. Leaders know that unless they have absolute conviction, they will not inspire others to follow.
Most importantly, true leaders know that leadership is not about achieving personal success (or wealth); it’s about making their vision a reality…accomplishing the goals of the cause to which they have made themselves vulnerable.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
Do you have a vision…a cause greater than yourself to which you are firmly committed? Are you willing to plant your feet and defend your position, regardless of its popularity? Do you inspire (rather than require) people to help you accomplish your goals? If so, you may be a leader.
Bowling Pins Have No Choice...You Do
Bowling pins have no "choice" but to fall over when hit by a bowling ball. It’s the way they were built. It’s their destiny…to be knocked down, time and time again. The pins can’t choose to "stand their ground" and refuse to fall when struck by the ball. They will never choose a new strategy to move out of the way of the rapidly approaching ball to avoid being knocked over. They will never choose to abandon the "unsafe" environment of the bowling lane and seek a safer environment. Game after game, they will continue to fulfill their destiny; to be knocked down over and over and over again by every ball with which they have contact.
Like a bowling pin which is a product of a manufacturing process that shapes it into its recognizable form, you, too, are a product of a manufacturing process of sorts which has shaped your behavior and actions into a recognizable form. That shaping, or programming, was performed by your parents and other authority figures during your early childhood. They taught you, from their perspective, what was right and wrong, good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. You may have obediently accepted their directives, rebelliously adopted a behavior opposite to what they taught, or exhibited a behavior somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. Regardless, you are a product of that upbringing and what you feel, think, and do in the present is strongly influenced by it.
Unlike a bowling pin, however, which has no choice but to carry out its programmed behavior, you have free will. You can make choices about how you act and react to your programming. You can structure your life to strictly adhere to and validate that programming and the scripted behavior it describes, or you can choose to direct your energy to alternative behaviors that better serve you in the present. While your epitaph may eventually be etched in stone, your path in life and your ultimate accomplishments are not. They are products of your own doing. No one has predetermined the path you must follow. You have the freedom to be, to do, to become, and to be known and remembered for whatever you want. The choice is yours. You are not a bowling pin.
Not Making a Decision is a Decision
The economy is sluggish. Money isn’t flowing like it was a few years ago. New business is difficult to find. Prospects aren’t beating a path to your door or overloading your phone lines. The only thing "reliable" about your old reliable customers is that their orders will be smaller and less frequent.
If your strategies and actions for identifying and developing new business opportunities aren’t working under current conditions, what are you going to do about it?
There are a lot of things you could do.
• You could step up your marketing efforts for identifying prospective customers.
• If appropriate, you could offer existing customers an incentive to accelerate their scheduled orders.
• You could ask existing customers to provide you with referrals to potential new customers.
• You could hit the phones—or the pavement—and make prospecting calls.
• You could call on your existing clients and look for additional ways to provide value for them.
Can’t decide which strategy would be the most effective, bring the fastest results, or generate the biggest return? Stop thinking about it. Continuing to "think about it" is like allowing a prospect to "think about it" when making a buying decision. Both lead to the same place—NOWHERE.
Not making a decision…is a decision: a decision to do NOTHING.
Are you afraid of making the wrong decision and perhaps making things worse? It would be wonderful if every decision you make was the "right" decision. But, many "right" decisions aren’t reached until a few "wrong" decisions are first tested. Every "wrong" decision inevitably reveals a lesson which, if applied, makes the next decision a potentially better one.
Regardless of how many lessons you learn before you "get it right," by making a decision to do SOMETHING, you start the process of moving forward and making progress. So, stop THINKING, make a decision, and start ACTING.