3 lessons I've learned about leadership
by corey breton - CRO, Global ATtractions at Legends | January 23, 2020
The three L’s; guess it’s fitting since one of the first lessons in leadership is learning to take L’s. As a sales rep, everything is within your control, and you can undoubtedly work your way out of a jam, a slump, difficult time. Yet as a leader, being linked to a product you can’t one hundred percent control, you’re dependent on the people you’re leading to achieve success.
In the beginning, one of your first realizations will be that not everyone is built like you, which creates a learning curve for you, self-introspection has to occur, as you strive to become more self-aware and seek out opportunities to connect with folks who are from different backgrounds, who have different goals and objectives, and those that you might not have hand-picked for your team.
Reflecting on my leadership approach, where I was and where I am today, a few elements stand out as the most influential of my leadership principles. Nothing here is going to be earth shattering, new age, groundbreaking, and neither is the formula for success. Yet for whatever reason, we try our best to blaze our own trail, create a new path to success, and harness an attitude that our way can be better than all those that came before us. Couple quotes come to mind when thinking about leadership;
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”
- Isaac Newton
Why be afraid to borrow (steal) lessons learned from those that came before us?
That’s exactly what a great leader wants; for their ideas, thoughts, processes, and systems to be forwarded on to the leaders of tomorrow. That’s exactly how they expand their reach and build a legacy.
“The wheel is round for a reason..”
Not sure who said this one, or if it’s just made up, yet no one has found a more efficient way to get around...the wheel has remained round for a reason, it works.
As a sales rep, humility is a fine line. As a leader, it’s essential to being welcomed by the group of individuals you’re leading. Trust and belief are a powerful combination, and one that is hard pressed to be earned on your timeline. Additionally, as a leader, especially in sales, you are completely dependent on other departments to achieve success. You need HR for recruiting, hiring, and disciplinary accountability. You need marketing for campaign management, lead maturation, and for driving inbound interest and leads. You need business intelligence to help you create efficiencies that are linked to data and analytics, database management, dashboards, real-time reporting. The list goes on, yet as a leader of a sales unit your first task is to remember you’re not, nor will you ever be, the most important person in the room. Listen before you speak in company-wide meetings. Learn their process before you impose yours. Co-create solutions, as we all want to live in a world we helped create.
Often the toughest and most valuable lesson learned when stepping into a leadership role? I don’t have to be the loudest. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t always have to win, which is relative to the situation. When I think of vulnerability as a leader, what I mean is that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know the answer”, as long as it’s followed by, “I will find the answer for you”. Seek to understand instead of being understood. Often times as a leader, young or old, ego seeps in. We watch leaders on TV and they’re always steadfast in their decisions, confident on the verge of arrogance, fast and deliberate in their decision-making process. Some of the greatest learnings I’ve ever had is when I let go. Let go of ego, became vulnerable, opened up to my leaders and staff, and just listened and learned. Your journey will most likely take you to places you’ve never been before, and regardless of tenure, age, experience, ego has a funny way of trying to justify your actions of confidence. What I am suggesting is to become comfortable being uncomfortable. Get comfortable not being the smartest person in the room. Get comfortable telling your direct reports and others, “I don’t know”. As you look above, trust and belief are developed over time, and it’s my belief that vulnerability helps create both.
As previously mentioned, you’re never the most important person in the room. Taking that a step further, you only exist to serve others. Your daily actions are focused on helping, aiding, guiding, leading others to achieve personal and professional success. When you give up your own ambitions, wholeheartedly focus on everyone else in the room, not only will it pay off in spades for you, you’ll receive so much joy. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be gifted, “Book of Joy”, and one of the excerpts that stuck with me and has become a personal mantra of sorts is, “happiness is fleeting, joy is ever lasting”. When I focus on me, I find happiness, and in an instant, it leaves me, as I begin my search for the next dopamine of happiness. Yet when I serve others, joy is found, which is everlasting, as you can watch for days, weeks, month, and years the impact that you had on others. We before me. Sounds simple enough, yet like anything, it’s a battle, a daily awareness, filter for decision making.
None of these elements focus on skill set, systems, processes, structure. All those elements can be learned. How else are you supposed to know how to do something you’ve never done before? I’ve been extremely fortunate to work for, and with amazing leaders throughout my career, and each of the lessons listed above can be directly attributed to the leadership I’ve received. They’ve walked the walk. They’ve led by example on a consistent basis. They’ve exhibited each of these characteristics and made damn sure that they held me accountable, which in turn increased my self-awareness, and forced me to lead with a simple, yet powerful statement; how do I appear?
Empathy is a powerful tool. We all need more of that in our daily lives, and the combination of humility, vulnerability, and selflessness leads to that in my opinion. Above all else, remember that leaders aren’t born, they’re made. We’re all works in progress. There is no finish line, as leadership is an ongoing evolution. Feel comfortable enough to borrow someone else’s diploma, learning from the leaders of the past, as lessons learned can shape the future. In closing, remember that regardless of all the advancements that surround us, at its core, leadership is about human connection.
Corey Breton is the Chief Revenue Officer for Global Attractions at Legends. Legends is a holistic agency that specializes in delivering solutions for legendary sports brands all over the world. Prior to Legends, Corey was a leader in the NBA at the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and Minnesota Timberwolves. He was also EVP of Sales in the MLS with LAFC. Collectively he's been in and around the sports business for 16 years. He's considered by most to be one of the best leaders around. The way he leads and cares for his people is special and if you aren't already familiar with Corey, you should get to know him. He can be found on LinkedIN here.