The Ultimate Guide to Great Sales Leadership - After Meeting 4,000 Sales Leaders in The Past 25+ Years (Henning Schwinum)

Having navigated the trenches of sales leadership for a quarter of a century, my perspective on what defines exceptional sales leadership is, by my admission, assertive and dogmatic. This unwavering conviction is the culmination of my extensive tenure as a sales leader and the founder of a Sales Leadership business, augmented by my experience selling into sales and marketing organizations.

My philosophy on leadership was initially shaped by those latter interactions: setting meetings with VPs of Sales and Marketing, meandering through their office spaces to conference rooms, and engaging with various team members. Observing their interaction with technology and their cultural dynamics provided me with a tangible sense of the environment fostered by the leader at the helm. 

Sometimes, the culture was so compelling I could envision myself thriving within it; other times, I found myself yearning to exit hastily.

The pursuit of greatness is a universal endeavor. This quest transcends professions, from athletes to students, to sales leaders—each of us yearns for greatness. To be clear, this isn't about being "the best" or attaining the elusive title of "GOAT," which can often be a farcical pursuit. Because greatness emanates from within; it's cultivated through persistent learning and practice. It's an amalgamation of skill and achievement, often acknowledged by our peers and subordinates.

So, what are the hallmarks of a great sales leader? What are the traits that resonate with others as markers of greatness? Here are the top nine attributes that I've identified through my experience:

1.     Empathy: A great leader listens intently and responds with genuine compassion and understanding.

2.     Integrity: This is the collective manifestation of honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, transparency, ethics, and robust moral principles.

3.     Passion: Passion begets passion. A leader's zeal can spark the team's enthusiasm, and in sales, fervor for the product or service is critical.

4.     Humility: Great leaders value their team, exhibit gratitude, gracefully accept feedback, and recognize their fallibility.

5.     Accountability: A leader takes ownership of results, shouldering more than their share of the blame and less of the praise, steering clear of the blame game.

6.     Inspiration: It's not solely about brilliant ideas; it's about galvanizing others to unlock their creative potential.

7.     Decisiveness: Leadership is about decision-making; from pivotal strategic choices to countless smaller decisions, the act of not deciding can stall progress.

8.     Reliability: Consistency and dependability are key; a leader's steadiness provides a foundation for the team's reliance.

9.     Positivity: A positive outlook is infectious, with the power to transform even the most cynical of Nancys.

While this list might appear straightforward, embodying these traits is an ongoing journey, not a destination. The path to great sales leadership is iterative, demanding continuous self-assessment and development. As I reflect on my assertive and perhaps rigid views, I am reminded that in the dynamic world of sales, adaptability is as crucial as any steadfast belief.

The essence of leadership, then, is not in the rigidity of one's convictions but in the ability to evolve and inspire others toward collective greatness.


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