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Last week I was busy leading a class of new salespeople through our 21st Century Sales Program(c) and as with all of my classes, one or two students always emerge as leaders but, not always the ones you'd think.  There are the ones who are eager to participate, but they aren't necessarily the leaders.  Others seem to know the answers to all the questions, but that may not mean leadership.


The ones that stand out are often in the background.  But, if you recognize them, you have the potential for a star employee.  They are concerned for the total performance of the team because they understand that an improving team makes them better as well.  In my class, they are the ones helping others through the role play exercises.  They are talking others through their nervousness by building classmate confidence.  And they do it without calling attention to themselves.  While that may make them hard to find, it definitely makes them worth looking for.


We had such a student.  While he impressed during the interview, he was very quiet in class.  Nothing he did called attention to himself.  That is, unless you really paid attention.  It reminded me of how I learned this lesson years before.


When my son was a high school sophomore, he pitched for his varsity team.  While the team did well, his fastball was in the low 80's.  Good enough for high school but not what his college choices were looking for.  Since I was never a pitcher, there wasn't much I could do to help.


A good friend of mine had been made president of his local Little League and was charged with running a clinic for the young pitchers.  Being a former soccer player, he called me for help.  I offered to volunteer my son.  Surprisingly, he accepted without the typical teenage grunting and pouting.  The ones who benefited were more than just these 10 and 11 year olds.  By constantly showing these kids the perfect mechanics for throwing a baseball, my son actually improved the most.


By his junior season he was topping out at 89 miles an hour and ultimately accepted a four year scholarship for baseball.  He lived a dream by getting to pitch against schools like Florida State, Auburn and others.  He played against Justin Verlander who is a lock for the Cy Young award.  And now he's a top producer for the company he works for.  All he did was help a bunch of little kids get better.


You can't help another without helping yourself.


My student continued working hard with his classmates for the rest of class and then beyond as they hit the floor for the first time.  He started on a Friday afternoon.  On Tuesday he let me know that he had already delivered 6 cars!  What was really rewarding was that he was thankful for making the decision to pursue his new career when others tried to talk him out of it. 


True leadership is done from behind.  You stand behind those you want to lead and offer support.  Leadership is far more than just standing and letting your title tell others what to do.  That's management.  Leadership is what takes things from good to great.  And it's often done by people just like you and me who are just trying to help others get a little better.


John Fuhrman is the Senior National Trainer for Carolina Automotive Resource Services, a unit of The Dealer Resource Group.  His ten books have reached 1.5 million readers and he has trained sales professionals around the world.  Check out our new ADVERTISING ONLY package for small dealers or dealers who want to train their own people.  When your dealership needs amazing results hiring new people, visit  ATTENTION DEALERS:  VISIT OUR WEB SITE AND REGISTER TO KEEP UP ON MONTHLY TRAINING SAVING SPECIALS Our trainers are ready to show you our "WOW!" factor.  (c)2011 by John Fuhrman - Permission to reprint this post in its entirety, including contact information, is hereby granted.

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Comment by John Fuhrman on September 26, 2011 at 3:01am
Thanks Tom.  It is true, leaders can be loud, but it is also true that not everyone who is loud is a leader.  My grandfather used to say, beware the quiet man.  That's who you need to pay attention to.
Comment by Tom Gorham on September 25, 2011 at 10:45am
Thank you so much Mr. Fuhrman.  I was at a seminar recently where two fellows who sat up front wanted to take over the class everytime something was asked or said.  They were so cock-sure.  One even had the temerity to ask the instructor to get on with it so we could learn something new, not considering those who might be new to the subject (SEM).  I was so disgusted.  I knew most of what he was saying also, but I waited for the pearls of wisdom that would surely come and I gathered them in.  Leaders are not always leaders but just arrogant people who tend to be the loudest.

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