Paving a Path to Authentic Leadership
It all started with How to Win Friends and Influence People. It might have been the first real business book I ever read. (How can you not love Dale Carnegie?) Regardless, my journey into understanding people and more importantly, understanding myself as a businessperson, had begun.
Skills and tactics learned over the years always enabled me to feel that I was representing my organization well and meeting client needs with authenticity. However, once I started working for a leadership development firm, the realization that there was so much more to learn changed my view on trust, values, and being my authentic self.
With a career in sales and sales management that spanned the travel industry, along with advertising and technology worlds, a thought that I would always struggle with in my work would come down to: “Does the person sitting across the table trust me?” Thankfully, there were more cases of the answer being yes, which has led to a long and prosperous career. There were also many cases where the sales/client relationship transcended the business and friendships were formed. For a lot of salespeople, this is not all that uncommon. But there was still something missing . . .
While it’s great to have clients become friends, you still must go back to the office and the company to work with and rely on your team to support your client relationships. Regardless of my intentions being genuine, good, and serving the company as well as the client, my deep client relationships were often regarded as suspect and questioned . . . “How did you get a meeting with him/her?” or “We have never worked with them, what did you say to close that deal?” Fortunately, that all changed when I was introduced to the CEO of a company that supports and leads leaders who in turn lead companies.
25 Years . . . Leadership School is now in session!
My first 90 days of onboarding at FlashPoint were anything but standard. I had the incredible opportunity to be an active participant in two leadership and team development programs, The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and The Five Behaviors®: Personal Development. While BOTH have had and continue to have lasting impact, hearing this from a sales executive can probably sound like a pitch. It’s not. It is a siren of enlightenment as it has changed my perception of how I show up—at work, at home, and how I feel INTERNALLY.
Here’s a little insight on the transformation connected to The Leadership Challenge® that I am currently experiencing and practicing every day.
The Values Catalyst
The Leadership Challenge® Workshop helped me to truly make sense of what leadership means. I can tell you with confidence, it is not an individual journey. It is an experience where common values, as much as it is about personal values, are shared in the most meaningful ways. (In other words, leadership is not all about ME!). Leaders Model the Way. Leaders clarify values by finding their voice and affirming shared values. They set the example by aligning their actions with these shared values.
Going back to the idea of trust, my clients clearly trusted me. However, when you understand and learn how to speak into your values, transformation happens. My twenty-five years of experience was starting to take on a different meaning. Where I used to feel like “the sales guy who had all the answers”, I realized I had so much to learn—and that was okay.
The simple act of defining, learning to express, and live my values gave me a confidence I didn’t have before. It was a different kind of credibility. I was able to show up more authentically with myself, my family, my clients, and my teammates. It starts here . . .
“For leaders to be able to earn and sustain their credibility, they first need to clarify their values and beliefs. They must be clear about the core principles that guide them in their work and personal lives, so they can choose actions that are consistent with those principles.”*
The exercise that we used to clarify our values in the workshop was simple. Using a card deck with common words such as “trust”, “teamwork”, “family”, or “creativity” (we could also choose our own), you whittle down the values that are the most/extremely important to you. Outside of a workshop experience like this, many of us go through life thinking we know what is important to us and we rarely give ourselves permission to reflect on it. When you do find your way to this newfound clarity and then cast the reflection of yourself against your organization’s values and how the company supports you as a leader, it is an “a-ha” moment. This had been a missing link.
While it seemed like I had figured it all out, showing up and “selling” leadership is not just about honesty, integrity, and the transaction. The stakes are so much higher. We are working with people who stand on the precipice of transforming lives for the better. When new customers partner with us, it is because they see everyone in our company is living their respective values and that is contagious. It is also life- and career-changing, and in many cases, career-saving.
Only based on success did I believe I knew everything about the process of selling. Transforming my traditional “tactical” approach to an “experienced, value-based” approach has been invaluable to me as a leader and more importantly, as a learner, and I constantly remind myself of (2) important rules: Rule #1: There is always so much more to learn. Rule #2: See Rule #1.
My Top 5 Values in no particular order are: Happiness, Family, Inspiration, Success, and Integrity.
*The Leadership Challenge Workshop Facilitator's Guide 5.0, "Values Clarity and Commitment," Copyright © 2017 by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. All Rights Reserved.
Photo by Alexis Mette on Unsplash