You can lead wisely!

Leadership is in more than several ways overemphasized and presented in a much complicated manner explain the leader follower dynamics and transactions. Several theories of leadership extending from a transactional view to LMX perspective and servant leadership, have enriched the literature. Just about when everyone was trying to emulate smart leaders like Bill Gates and Jack Welch, Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou introduced a new idea : How do leaders transcend their smart leadership capabilities to become a wise leader. These authors argue that the difference between a smart and wise leader is not about the difference in their perspective,action orientation, role clarity, fortitude or motivation. The wise leadership is all about ethics, shared value and larger purpose.
Here’s my take on wise leadership ( this cuts across leadership roles, situations, professions etc). A wise leader is like lord Krishna in epic Mahabharata.
• Has the attitude to serve
• Be on the side of truth
• Carries leadership role with equanimity
• Performs with a sense of duty
Particularly in the context of sales leadership, it’s important to underline the result orientation and performance pressure that the sales leaders manage day in and day out. Striking the right balance between high performance and associated job stress is something that sales leaders must deal successfully to achieve high sales force morale and job satisfaction. So what does it take to be a wise sales leader? Someone who has the answers to the following:
• Self-Awareness: Who are you? Do you know yourself well enough? Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know your values and let these values add more strength to your thinking and actions. What are your aspirations? Where do you want to go with your team?
• Do you have a story? : All right you know yourself very well. Do you have a story for your team? Or you have the same daily operational conversation that possibly can be accomplished through non-human communication tools! Have you weaved in your strategic insights into a nice and racy story that explains your business objectives and outlines the paths leading to those objectives? Des this story of yours reflect your own commitment to the central theme of the story?
• Can you sell your story? : Your team members look up to you for support and guidance. You need to sell your story to each of your salesperson so that they perform with a sense of calling and membership. If you can sell your story successfully then you have ‘ buy in’ from your team for the larger picture and the broader purpose of the collective toil and stress that is being committed to day-to-day business activities.
• Are you ready to give it all? A wise leader leads with an attitude to serve and perform his duties without staking any claims for ‘credits’. Yet, he/she puts his/her reputation behind his team in case of a failure/under performance.

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Add Talent Muscle to Your Sales Force

During my interactions with sales heads in several companies across industries, one of the things I ask them is: ‘Do you recruit salespeople to build competitive advantage for your firm?’. Most of the time, this question receives very ambiguous responses: ‘Well yes, we do consider our sales force as a long-term strategic investment.’, ‘yes; a good sales force is what drives our business’. Apparently, the importance of having a good sales force finds acceptance with all Sales Managers but how to build a good sales force remains a black hole with majority of the organizations. It’s an organizational imperative to use sales force recruitment as a strategic driver of sales force effectiveness. An extremely difficult thing to do but the pay-offs are much more worth the pain. Additionally, it mitigates organizational risks of making wrong hiring decisions and saves lots of money and human resource hours. Here are few pointers for strategic staffing of your sales force.
• Profile your salespeople: Usually, best performers and worst performers may have performance variance up to the degree of three. Profile your best salespeople: what attributes, attitudes and cognitive skills drive their performance? What do they find motivating with the organization’s culture and the industry they operate in? Profile these salespeople to know what works best for your organization. Investigate the worst performers and figure out the core behaviours that inhibit performance in these individuals.
• Develop a hiring agenda: The hiring agenda should work as a set of guiding principles that should clearly outline: what the organization is not looking for and what all it seeks to search for?
• Recruit for potential: While evaluating a candidate, it’s important to see his ‘fit’ in current as well as future businesses that the firm might get in. Firms in growth phase of business cycle should consider looking at long-term organizational needs, whereas firms in mature or declining phase of business cycle might consider short-term needs.
• Recruit for higher goal orientation: While it will be a good idea to focus on performance orientation of candidates, look for learning orientation deficiencies. Salespeople with lower levels of learning orientations are more likely to reach their level of incompetence, too fast, too soon!
• Recruit for diversity: Social and gender diversity can do a lot of good to your sales force effectiveness. Bringing in salespeople from diverse industries (provided they match your best salespeople profile) could propel newer ways of doing things and help the firms in optimising their operational costs.
• Recruit for talent: When you come across a talented salesperson you would love to hire, do everything possible to bring him on board. If that requires you to sell the opportunity to him/her, go ahead and use your selling skills. Do it.
• Friends and Relatives, References et al.: As long as your talent acquisition agenda is served, candidate’s reference source does not matter much (Having your cousins in the sales force may not be a good idea though). Poor fit must not sneak in. A bad hire can create havoc to the morale of performers.