What makes a great leader great?

I have had the wonderful privilege over the years of working with some of America’s greatest business leaders.  My 21 years with Aflac allowed me the opportunity to witness firsthand, the leadership skills of people like Dan Amos, Paul Amos, II, Teresa White, Michael Zuna and Tom Giddens.  I have also had the great opportunity to work with some of the most passionate and consistently effective leaders in field sales management.  Additionally, I have studied great thought leaders on the subject of leadership such as Dr. John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard and many others.

There are many common character traits that I have seen and which I believe to be the keys to success of great leaders – regardless of the industry.  Each of these traits can be learned and developed into a skill set that can grow any sales team.  I have listed my top four below.  If you are a sales leader, or want to become a sales leader you must make a major commitment in developing these skill sets.

  1. They have a commitment to improving their personal leadership skills.
  2. They have the ability to choose great people to become a part of their team.
  3. They have a commitment to equip and empower those people to do their jobs.
  4. They credit their team for the successes and take personal responsibility for the failures.

Every great leader that I know is an avid reader.  I have seen the success libraries of many of my mentors.  I personally have a staggering collection of books and recordings that I have listened to and read multiple times.  With today’s technology, I can carry around an immense amount of personal development material to read with a simple touch of my iPad screen.  I also keep copies of my favorite books on my shelves in hardback.

If you are not a reader, start with small amounts of time.  Read 15-30 minutes daily and listen to a podcast, mp3 or other recording of someone teaching you how to become a better you.

Picking the right people to be on your team is no simple matter.  Most of us are optimistic by nature.  We want the people around us to succeed.  Some of us tend to believe that anyone can do what we have done.  Others believe that they can “pick” the winners and losers consistently.

Whether picking new sales people for your team – or promoting new sales leaders inside your organization, I suggest a little bit more of a scientific approach.

  • Observe those who are successful in the roles you will be filling.
  • Make a list of the qualities possessed by those individuals.
  • Design interview questions that will uncover those same qualities in others.
  • Assessments can be useful tools if they are within your budget – however be careful about using them to “de-select” people.  They tend to be more useful in guiding you on how to work with those you bring on board.

When picking leaders to promote – look for people who are already leaders in their current role within your organization.  In particular, look for those who are not simply stars in their individual performance, but are stars in the value they bring to the team.  Find those who raise the performance level of those around them by how they interact with the group.

We will discuss the remaining items as we go through this week.

Please share the post with your circle of influence.  Help us build the tribe. 🙂


Tomorrow we will discuss equipping and empowering those on your team to get their jobs done.  What are your strengths in that area?