Who leads the leaders?
In Mark Roberge’s book – The Sales Acceleration Formula – he references one of the key traits he hires for is coach-ability. I love this. I also feel like as leaders – we too, need to have this same mindset. As coaches ourselves, we need be coachable.
WHO and WHERE do we look to for guidance?
History has some great examples of wildly successful leaders being influenced and mentored in how they think and act by others. The greatest leaders had their own leaders and mentors.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Abraham Lincoln – Team of Rivals
In the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln , Doris Goodwin outlines many examples of why Lincoln was such a great leader. He appointed people to his cabinet that he often disagreed with, but that he felt could influence his thinking in ways that others who always agreed with him, could not.
He felt that strong leaders should never be afraid to listen to the best people even if they had been former rivals or outspoken critics. He listened to their opinions and allowed their thinking to influence his thoughts and actions.
Mark Zuckerberg – Steve Jobs
Zuckerberg talked about his inspiring mentor Steve Jobs. “He was amazing,” said Zuckerberg. “I had a lot of questions for him.” He described how Jobs gave him advice about how he could build a team that was as focused as Zuckerberg on building “high quality and good things”. They also both believed that their life paths were meant for more than just building businesses. They wanted to change the lives of people. Zuckerberg wrote in a final farewell Facebook post to Jobs: “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”
Bill Gates – Warren Buffet
American business magnate Warren Buffett is often considered the most successful investor of the twentieth century. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO mentored Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. Gates first met Buffett at a dinner organized by Gates’ mother, where the two spoke about business and philanthropy.
Gates admits that over the years he has turned to Buffett for advice on various subjects, and has often referred to Buffett as “one of a kind.”
The impact of Buffet’s experience and input on Gates was clear from the interview the pair conducted with CNBC, in which the Microsoft founder credited Buffet for his invaluable advice in overcoming adversity and long-term thinking. His ability to “teach things that are complex and put them in a simple form, so that people can understand and get the benefit of all his experience”, enabled Gates to fulfill his potential and make a mockery of his ‘high school dropout’ tag.
Lee Ioacocca, Jamie Diamond and Jack Welch
In business, Lee Iacocca of Chrysler, Jamie Diamond of JP Morgan Chase, and Jack Welch of General Electric each we’re drawn to individuals who had a track record of influencing other people instead of just managing an enterprise.
Tribe of Mentors
Who do you look up to as a leader? Tim Ferris assembled his own “Tribe of Mentors” because he too – felt the need and guidance that comes from others.
In thinking about where others turned for motivation, learnings and insights, I posed this question on LinkedIn. I received some excellent recommendations from many on who they follow and why. Authors like Jocko Willink, Malcom Gladwell, Phil Jones, Kim Scott and Greg McKeown made the list. Other chose successful business leaders like John Maxwell, Mark Cuban, Darren Hardy and Gary Vaynerchuk as leaders they admire. And I loved hearing mental performance options like David Goggins, Goalcast, Craig Manning, and Todd Herman make the cut.
I then personally reached out to some of the more influential thought leaders in SaaS sales. I asked them for someone they follow, look up to or someone that has impacted their career- in hopes they’d pass on the tribal knowledge to me and you.
Call it the Stretch VP Tribe of Mentors.
“There are many that have been tremendously helpful to me. It is one of the great things about the sales community…there is such an abundant mentality. In the last 3 years the person that has done the most for me personally is Doug Landis. He’s the Growth Partner at Emergence Capital. Doug has done it all and is a MUST FOLLOW. Doug is the perfect example of someone who has been in the game a long time but has stayed current, stayed modern, stayed relevant. He has taught me, mentored me, and motivated me. Your readers will all be better off if they follow him.“
Jeff Hoffman from MJHoffman & Associates. He’s my mentor and the original founder of Basho (Sales Training Programs) and some of the content I deliver.
“Not too many folks on LI have motivated me in my career, but a few have supported me to go out on my own. I would include Richard Harris, Kevin Dorsey and John Barrows, along with Michael Lindstrom as chief among them.“
“Adam Grant is one of my favorite follows on LinkedIn. He’s a psychologist, author, and professor at Wharton, and has written a few really useful books that have guided my professional career (most notably, “Give and Take”). On LinkedIn, he posts almost daily — little snippets about how to be a better leader, co-worker, and person.
Off of LinkedIn (and perhaps a less traditional choice), Steve Kerr has truly impressive thoughts on leadership & talent management. Kerr played in the NBA alongside Michael Jordan, then transitioned to coaching after his playing days, winning 3 NBA titles in his 5 years as a head coach with the Warriors. He talks a lot about the importance of “joy” in the work you do, how to manage extremely talented people, and how to foster cultures & environments that prize teamwork and high performance standards.“
“John Barrows. The reason he impacted me is that he teaches sales in a way that is genuine and not slimy. Also, he teaches you how to care about the client and not JUST care about the sale.“
“Josh Roth is a bright, shining star in the community, you should definitely be giving him some of your spotlight.“
“The biggest mentors for me have been leaders within companies I’ve worked for who agreed to specifically set aside time for mentorship meetings with me monthly. It is those people who have influenced my style, approach and thinking far more than any book. I recommend finding a mentor who has the role you want to be in, in 10 years.“
“Scott Leese and Richard Harris. Scott for prioritizing “grit” over “sales theory” – looking outside the sales books (even though he wrote Addicted to the Process). Richard Harris has been tackling Depression issues and mental health – I love his transparency.”
“Ryan Holiday for sure. (Writer) He writes a daily newsletter on practical applications of stoicism which I found very useful in my daily life and career. Highly recommend it for anyone looking for an operating system for life!“
“Someone I follow that I’m a big fan of is Dave Gerhardt, the CMO at Privy and former VP of Marketing at Drift. The content he puts out around marketing and copywriting is always actionable – I can read it and apply it the very same day. There aren’t a lot of people like that. When I follow his lead, I feel like I’m taking a free masterclass in marketing. To me, selling only gets you so far. The key is being so compelling to your prospect, that less selling is needed. That’s what Dave’s content provides.”
So there you have it. With so much demand on our time, its critical to pause, game plan and prioritize getting better in all facets of our lives to be the type of leader we can be. Let’s get better together. Steal this list of today’s successful leaders and their mentors.
And lastly – thanks Dad! You’re a mentor for me in business – but most importantly – life.
Bio: Grant Hanson is an accomplished sales leader with proven success in revenue generation, coaching, go to market strategy and tactics. He’s trusted as a mentor, motivator, leader, strategic thinker, and relationship builder. As a student of sales, Grant can often be found reading, listening to podcasts and sharing insights from experts to emulate. Outside of work, Grant can be found on the golf course, running, or in the mountains with his family.