The Tale of Two Leaders

A young sapling will bend or break without support. And so will young team members.

As a leader, it is incumbent upon you to support your people. This is especially true for your younger team members. Even if you don’t have faith that they can handle the job, or you have other reservations about performance or other issues with maturity, you must remember that your team is made up of your people.

Your team members are put under you for something greater than you and your positional or career aspirations. They are there to carry out team and organizational goals. They are put there so you can get things done WITH them. This means that they are under your mentoring and stewardship responsibility.

And if you want to kick it up a notch or two, you can adopt an abundance mindset:

Truly great leaders in life become so because they cause others to be greater than themselves.” ~ Steve Farber

However, if your leadership toward your team weighs in on the scarcity-minded side of the leadership spectrum, you’ll adopt a more pessimistic approach. This can lead to trouble. If you have a mindset that your younger team members are bound to fail, mess up, or not maximize opportunities, you may just a big part of those fears coming to fruition.

You may be part of a  self-fulfilling prophecy.

According to Wikipedia, a self-fulfilling prophecy is, “a prophecy declared as truth when it is actually false may sufficiently influence people, either through fear or logical confusion, so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy.

In other words, you will get what you expect to get from the people who work for you. Not supporting them and showing them that you have no faith in their ability to do the job can help support a bad result. Conversely, the opposite of this can hold true.

A Tale of Two Leaders

Like you, I’ve seen a number of great leaders and a number of not-so-great leaders in my time. And with all those leaders come a bunch of leadership stories. Of the many stories I have to share, I have selected two memories to share with you here.

As you can guess, it’s a “good-leader” versus “bad-leader” tale of two leaders.

The Bad Leader

Here’s the bad story related to me by someone I know. Jake was given the charge to develop a new market on the east coast for his company. He had worked hard to take his sales pipeline from zero to $35 Million in a mere seven months. It came time to close the first deal and the customer insisted on speaking to someone authorized to “make the deal.”

In Jake’s company, only his boss could negotiate a deal.

Jake made arrangements for his boss to be at the sales presentation for the negotiation to occur. When Jake called his boss to get his arrival time for the trip, his boss informed him that he would not be coming and to tell the customer he would come the following week.

Jake told his boss that if no deal was made at this pending meeting, that they would lose the sale. Jake asked his boss to give him the authority and negotiation parameters so that Jake could close the deal at the meeting. The boss refused and insisted that it could be done next week.

The customer was peeved! And despite a flawless sales presentation, the “hungrier” company that sent their company president to close the big deal came home with the prize. The result was that Jake and his company lost a deal worth $10 million, one-third of Jake’s sales pipeline.

The bigger loss to the company was that Jake became so discouraged at the lack of support from his boss, he left the company a few months later. The proposed new market on the east coast collapsed, the company lost a good manager, a big sale, and a bright future for further growth.

Bad leader! Bad!”

The Good Leader

The “good” story is more personal that happened to me. I was given the charge to start up a new inside sales program. There was a lot of conflict about this program, as a number of field sales people and their support team had been laid off to reorganize for the new program.

At the first all-company sales meeting, sales reps (both inside and outside) came into the meeting room and selected their seats.  A group of my inside sales reps took seats on the front row. I was appalled when I saw some senior field reps tell my people to move to the back of the room so the field reps could sit on the front row.

My boss, a very hot-headed but loyal individual, saw what was going on and also saw the look of shock on my face. He immediately walked over to the field sales reps and said to them, “my people are not second-class citizens and they can sit anywhere they please.” With that reprimand, the arrogant field reps sheepishly got out of their seats and moved away. My boss signaled to my inside sales reps to come back to the front row.

Good leader! Good!”

Nothing can describe the amount of loyalty and allegiance my boss acquired from the troops and from me that day. In that one action of support he demonstrated that he respected us as individuals and understood how hard we had worked under pressure.

We showed our dedication and loyalty to him by winning every sales award that year.

How important is support from leadership in your company? Does a lack of support from leaders really affect the bottom line? Do leaders support their people in your company? What’s your experience?


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Carolyn Jolly
Carolyn Jolly
is principal at The Alignment Forum
She helps with executive coaching, business strategy and teambuilding workshops
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog

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These Shoes Kill My Feet, But They’re SO HOT

I had just finished a chapter of my book and was feeling quite satisfied.

You see, I had finally completed the first chapter of my book after nine long months in the making. I had decided to use the example of Zappo’s, my favorite online shoe outlet, as a company that was led by an extraordinary leader who inspires total team alignment.

The chapter started out with:

I recently became a product evangelist for Zappo’s Shoes. This happened much to my surprise—they neither asked me to perform this service, nor do they pay me to do so. This company quite simply blew me away with their service model.  I have referred at least six people to Zappo’s and I believe they have all placed at least one order. Their service leaves you saying “How do they do it?”  This is viral marketing at its best. And, they are constantly looking for ways to improve their service.

I then finished this section with a flourish, making the following bold statements:

This is an example of a company that has decided that impeccable service will be their competitive difference. I can imagine that a team of their employees, aligned for a common purpose, set out to think of all the objections a customer might have to ordering shoes from the internet and then proceeded to overcome those objections one by one.

It took a great deal of creativity to develop the delivery system that could accomplish that, and I’m sure this was also done through a team effort. I’ll bet that different teams working together within the company contributed to their entire service model. Service like this can’t happen at a company unless they have an effective team process in place—one that aligns everyone with the same goals.


Honey, Dear…

After I completed this section, I decided to get some trusted feedback. “Will you read this chapter and tell me what you think? I just sent it to your inbox.” I said to my husband who was busy reading his newspaper and paying absolutely no attention to me.

Several hours later, he said to me, “What do you know about Zappo’s CEO and how he runs his company?”

I tossed a wary look his way—his questioning, accusatory tone didn’t sound promising.

Well, I don’t know much first-hand,” I replied.“But, I know that you can’t build such a service model without inspiring your team to great accomplishment. I can tell, just by dealing with his company, that he must be a creative thinker, someone who operates by instinct and ‘throws away the book.’”

(There’s a kind of shorthand that comes with being together for over 39 years.)

My husband glared at me with a “you need to research this, you know I’m right” look. I meekly nodded my head and sat down to “google” information on Zappo’s. What I found wasn’t a surprise, but it was certainly reassuring.

Authentic Leadership readily shows, and it’s darned difficult to cover it up when it’s really good. As I suspected, great leadership filters down from the top to be reflected in the service that is delivered.


Here’s a kernel of what I found:

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappo’s. He would rather spend money on the customer experience than on marketing. He has to “un-train” his customer service people who come from other call centers. He allows his agents free reign as to what actions to take to make their customers happy. He interviews people for culture fit and only wants those who are passionate about their jobs. He pays people to go away at the end of training if they aren’t a good fit.

His young company recently hit $1 Billion in sales. He has built a culture on ten core values and he actually lives it. He is building a consulting company to train those who want to know how to do it the Zappo’s way.

Is the leadership in your organization showing? Do your leaders “color outside the lines” in order to accomplish your company goals? When was the last time your organization acted against the grain and had a victory? I would love to hear your thought!

Bookmark These Shoes Kill My Feet, But They're SO HOT

Carolyn Jolly
is principal at The Alignment Forum
She helps with executive coaching, business strategy and teambuilding workshops
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog

Image Sources:,
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