Magazine Article | November 1, 2015

The Hidden Factor Of Leadership

Source: Life Science Leader

By Alan Zell, author, The Elements of Selling

In the past 30 years, having read many books, articles, and case studies about the theories and practices for successful leadership styles, I have found that there is a hidden theme which connects them all — selling. Essentially, this involves asking others to accept and do what one expects others to do. When they do what is asked, it is a result of a good leadership style.

But there is a problem when the subject of selling comes up for anyone who doesn’t have that term in their job description. Almost automatically the word evokes a negative attitude. Hence, it is not unusual to hear someone state, “I’m not selling, I’m a manager or in finance or in operations or some other job description other than selling.” To them, being accused of selling is an anathema. Such an attitude ends up as a disadvantage for both the individual and their organization. So, to be seen as a leader, you may need to change your attitude toward the concept of selling.

  • CHANGE #1
    Don’t consider selling a four-letter word. Instead, view it as an 11-letter term — a profession.
  • CHANGE #2
    Understand that some decisions made by employees who are not directly related to sales may still affect a leader’s reputation or even the company’s reputation as a leader in its industry and with the public. Ultimately, those decisions could have a negative effect on the bottom line, which may, in turn, imply the organization is suffering from poor leadership.
  • CHANGE #3
    Recognize the concept of “internal selling,” where everyone at a company is involved in selling in some way or another. This involves “selling” things such as an organization’s ideas, policies, procedures, and appropriate attitudes toward investors, advisors, associates, staff, and suppliers.

Internal selling is not a unidirectional activity performed from the top down; it is a two-way street. The other direction occurs when the staff wants to sell their ideas, attitudes, and competency to their management and supervisors and then to their associates, staff, and others who may be outside the organization. Good internal selling happens when a person speaks with confidence and intelligence about a topic.

Unfortunately, everyone has been both the victim and the villain of poor internal selling. Often, the negative effects of poor leadership can be traced to poor internal selling. So, being a leader rests on how easy it for others to buy-into and do what is asked of them and how they relate the situation to friends, family, associates, vendors, or even the organization’s customers/ clients.

Leadership of all types and styles comes about for individuals, firms, and organizations when everyone involved sees there is a selling component to what everyone does no matter their job title. When you accept that attitude that selling is an integral part of leadership, then leadership will permeate your organization. Without it, though, leadership is only a word and not an action.