Could you sell your leadership?

In the lead up to our forthcoming ‘Leading during a Turnaround’ webinar, we’re asking the question – could you sell your leadership?

You’re probably familiar with Software as a Service (Saas). But what if leadership was seen as a service, available for sale in a competitive market where consumers could pick and choose whose leadership to buy.

How much leadership would you sell? Would you still be in business?

For the most part, leaders in business have a captive audience – it doesn’t feel like these free market forces are at play.

But they are.

You see, people do buy leadership, they just don’t pay cash. Instead they trade in the currencies of commitment, loyalty, passion and engagement. But like any consumer, if they don’t like what’s for sale they won’t buy.

Your leadership is for sale on a continual basis. So what lessons can we learn from the world of business that we can apply to the ‘business of leadership’?

1. Smell what Sells

In an episode the British TV program ‘The Apprentice’, Alan Sugar famously fires one of his contestants because he failed to ‘smell what sells’ in a pop up shop contest. The central goal of any businesses is to find out what their customers want and give them more of it.

If you’re in leadership, you need to be listening to your people and adjusting your leadership based on feedback. This is a difficult and uncomfortable process, especially the first time, but getting genuine and honest feedback is the most powerful key to leadership improvement and ultimately to giving employees more of what they want and need.

2. Leadership is a popularity contest

A boss of mine once said ‘I’m not paid to be popular’. That statement sounded reasonable at the time, but these days I’m convinced he was wrong. No, we’re not paid to go with the flow, to take the easy decisions or to be liked all of the time. But an ‘unpopular’ business that consistently ignores feedback from it’s customers? That business is doomed.

In the same way, if a leader ignores the impact of decisions on their team, or fails to explain the rationale sufficiently, then the support of that team will wane – and a supportive team is critical to business performance. Employees respect leaders not just for making tough calls, but also for taking care to understand and mitigate the personal impacts of those decisions.

3. Brand consistency

Digital technology has enabled consumers to look beyond marketing hype and to see what a brand really stands for. People increasingly want to connect with authentic brands that have the same values as they do.

Employees too are more likely to connect with authentic leaders who stay true to themselves. Workers are quick to spot inconsistencies between the words and the music – the values – of their leaders…… ‘well she would say that, she has to tow the company line’.

But the most powerful leadership moments I’ve witnessed are those when leaders revealed their feelings, frustrations and uncertainties about a change,even whilst affirming that it was the right thing to do. This level of authenticity creates trust and mutual respect that will carry an organisation through difficult periods.

The path to more effective leadership starts with seeking and acting upon feedback from the people you are working with. That feedback and reflection process should be structured and managed carefully for maximum effect. We recommend the Life Styles Inventory (TM), which is the tool we use at The Operations Academy.

Are you trying to sell more leadership? What have you tried, what worked, and what failed? I’d love to hear your feedback and stories – just add a comment below

On Thursday 28th April I’ll be sharing my personal experiences leading organisations through difficult turnarounds. It would be great if you could join me – register for the free webinar here.