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There are different types of leadership styles, and sales in particular has a number of sales management styles. Effective sales leaders can match the right style to the situation. Most sales leaders default to a consensus-building (democratic) style, inviting input from their teams. When asked to choose the type of leader they want to be, most managers say strategic or transformational.  Both of these sales management styles require a leader to have a larger, more important impact on their sales force. What sales managers do not want to be is a transactional leader, contributing little to the results of their team and managing by checking a box. Here, we’ll explore the characteristics of transformational leaders and contrast them with transactional leadership.

What Is the Focus of Transformational Leadership? 

The primary focus of transformational leadership is to cause a positive change among the individuals and teams the leader is responsible for. This positive change improves employee engagement and results, especially in sales. A secondary focus of transformational leadership is to build future leaders. 

One of the defining actions of a transformational leader is driving change. This helps explain why sale many sales leaders are attracted to transformational leadership. The sales organization that reaches their goals will be greeted with a bigger goal. To reach those goals, the sales organization will need to make changes. 

There are several elements of transformational sales leadership. We will look at several critical elements, including those that are characteristic of a great sales manager. 

The Vision of a Transformational Leader

It's difficult to find a list of leadership elements that doesn't start with vision. To become a transformational sales leader, you must already see a picture of better results and the changes necessary to bring it life. You must also be able to connect the changes you implement to the better results you are seeking. A transformational leader is unfaithful to the status quo and provides effective leadership.

The opposite of a transformational leader is a transactional leader. Transactional leadership is faithful to the status quo, and typically holds two incorrect beliefs. The first is that the only change their team needs to make is to increase their activity. and the second is that they are motivated only by financial rewards. 

A transformational leader can see the better future, but they also see something more important. They see something in each individual and their teams. The best leader you've ever had might have been a parent, a teacher, or a mentor. They recognized potential in you that you could not see. No matter who they were, they made a profound difference in your life and a source of inspiration. I am fond of an idea from the Buddhists, which also conveys the perspective of a transformational leader: "You are perfect just the way you are, and you could use some improvement."

This transformational leader isn't satisfied by simply showing an individual their potential. What makes a leader transformational is that the people in their charge transform. When a person believes in an individual and their potential, they provide an inspirational motivation. This approach helps build successful sales leaders.

How a Transformational Leaders Cause Transformation 

Transformational sales leaders connect their vision to the growth and development of their sales team. By improving each person on their team, they improve their team's sales effectiveness. These improvements allow the sales force to produce the better sales results that deliver the leader's vision. 

The sales leader who knows their team also knows what they need. To make an impact as a transformational sales leader, you need a development plan supported. By a competency model based on a modern sales approach to B2B sales. These leaders know their teams and what each person needs to do to improve their individual results. Any sales organization pursuing transformation will have a robust coaching program

Coaching is the most effective approach for transforming individuals and the sales organization. This is in line with the research on transformational leadership, which supports the idea that individualized consideration is a critical factor in driving progress. Because each person has certain strengths and areas of potential improvement, a customized development plan and coaching provides the right tools for transformation. 

Autonomy and Transformational Leadership

Transformations require autonomy, which is part of the process of change. Great sales leaders allow people to find their way. They don't expect their teams to get things right without having to work at the changes they need to make to reach their potential. Each person will find what works best for them, but this takes time and flexibility, which transformational leaders understand.

As a leader, when you allow autonomy, you increase the likelihood that each individual will find their way. Some will succeed sooner than others, and some will need more help. With consistent coaching, each will find their own way to their potential. 

The Influence of the Transformational Leader

Any sales leader who aspires to be transformational must start by providing an example for their team. No matter what a leader says, their team will adjust to what they do. If the sales leader is client-oriented, they provide an example. If the leader has high integrity, always doing what is right, the more their team will follow their leadership and mirror that characteristic. One characteristic of a great sales manager is that they serve as a role model for their team.

What is often missing with influence is a sales leader who wants their team to change and grow, but doesn’t want to change and grow themselves. This is called idealized influence

The Impact of Transformational Leadership in Sales

Transformational leadership has a profound impact on sales organizations. By setting a vision and inspiring their teams, transformational sales leaders can bring out the best in their team, leading to improved sales performance and results. Transformational leaders also have the power to build future leaders, creating a legacy of success that can last well beyond their tenure. It would be rare for a transformational leader not to leave a legacy of future leaders in their wake. 

The impact of a transformational leader is felt by every person on their team. Their leadership show up in the increase in their sales results and their sales team's performance. By activating their team's greater potential, they increase their sales effectiveness (i.e., win rates). 

How to Get Started Becoming a Transformational Leader 

    1. Develop a clear vision: Transformational leaders have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and how they plan to get there. Take the time to develop your own vision for success and a plan to reach it.
    2. Connect your vision to your team: Transformational leaders can connect the vision they have with the individual goals of their team. Link the vision of your team to the individual aspirations of your team members.
    3. Be an example: Transformational leaders can lead by example. Model the behavior you want to see in your team and strive to be the example you want them to follow.
    4. Provide coaching and development opportunities: Transformational leaders understand the importance of development and coaching. Invest in the development of your team and provide them with opportunities to learn and grow.
    5. Provide autonomy: Transformational leaders understand the importance of autonomy. Give your team the freedom to try new approaches and find their own solutions.
    6. Establish trust: Transformational leaders understand the importance of building trust with their teams. Invest the time to get to know your team and foster a positive working environment.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 22, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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