I was riding high as a 20 something salesperson described by the corporate leadership as the best salesperson they had ever seen. I was IT!
So IT in fact that one day the General Manager called me into his office and offered me the job of General Sales Manager. If I accepted, I would pass over the District Sales Managers and the Regional Sales Managers. With a simple “yes” the people I worked for would now be working for me.
I had no idea what the job consisted of but what I did know was that it paid a LOT more money and came with a huge office and a company car. I consulted with my top advisors (my golfing and drinking buddies) and quickly decided to accept the job.
So began my career in leadership and what a miserable beginning it was. You see, I was promoted into a leadership “position” and given a fancy “title” but no General Manager and no amount of promotions could make me an authentic leader. Only time, experience, great mentors and willing, committed followers could do that.
On my first day as General Sales Manager I assumed I was a leader and I assumed everyone else thought I was too. (I mean geez, why wouldn’t the district and regional managers be happy for me?) That was just the start of my many, many mistakes. My mistakes were so numerous that all the Internet couldn’t hold them. But of all my mistakes, here is the biggest: I assumed that my title or position made me a leader. I was dead wrong.
I held that position for nearly 3 years, almost 36 months of floundering and limiting the growth of those I was “leading.”
Finally, a couple of guys from Dale Carnegie Training came through my door and started me on the process towards true leadership. I learned quickly that no title and no position, no matter how grand, no matter how much it pays and no matter how coveted it is, will ever make you a leader.
Caring for others, sharing your experience, practicing intentional recognition, providing consistent feedback and developing more leaders are just a few of the traits that make an authentic leader.
I have written about this before but it bears repeating again and again, if you hold a title or position do not make the mistake I did, do not assume either of those make you a leader. The position may give you a nice office and the title a hefty paycheck but only influence with others makes you a real leader.
Find yourself a mentor, take some leadership classes, or read a book on leadership. Whatever you do, do something. The people reporting to you need you to be a good leader, they want you to be a great leader and they know that in all likelihood, if you don’t succeed, they won’t either.
If someone saw fit to trust you with a leadership position don’t squander the opportunity, get busy developing your leadership skills today.