lebron modern leader

Have you seen Bob Marsh’s latest post “25 Sales Experts Describe the Modern Sales Leader?” If you haven’t, check it out. Being a sales leader is much different today — it doesn’t even require a nice shirt and tie. Sometimes gym shoes, a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey and the name LeBron James is enough to get grouped in with the modern leaders of today. Or at least to learn from them…


What LeBron Can Teach Modern Sales Leaders:

We’re always talking about what makes a modern sales leader here at LevelEleven and writing about how to become one. Today, I want to let a description of LeBron do the talking. He represents a modern sales leader in a few different ways, and there are four things you might be able to learn from him.

[Check out our latest eBook: “Why Modern Sales Leaders Drive with KPIs.”]

1. Be leading indicator/KPI driven.

Modern sales leaders drive their teams with leading indicators and key performance indicators (KPIs). Apparently, it’s what you should drive your basketball team with, too.

LeBron James spends all year focusing on the behaviors that lead to wins. His team doesn’t spend time in practice repeating irrelevant tasks. They spend it on areas that need attention. Defense, rebounds, free throws — these are just a few of the Cavaliers’ leading indicators that produce wins.

It’s LeBron’s job as team captain and leader to make sure his team understands the importance of those behaviors, as well. So when he takes his teammates out to workout, he builds his workouts around those leading indicators. When he’s inspiring competition, it’s around those leading indicators. He makes sure that the team is moving forward with KPIs in mind.

By driving KPIs LeBron took the Cavaliers, who won just 33 games the year before, all the way up to 53 wins this past year — a remarkable feat by one of the world’s modern leaders.


2. Coach your team along the way.

In a tweet to our CEO, Predictable Revenue author Aaron Ross (@motoceo) said that a modern sales leader is “a coach (w/empathy) who develops people thru challenges, not just treating them as replaceable inputs and outputs.”

I don’t think Aaron Ross and LeBron James have chatted recently, but their views on leadership may imply otherwise. Day in and day out, LeBron coaches his teammates to be the best they can be, whether that means breaking down their last game film, or taking the team’s rookies out for an early morning run. LeBron inserts himself into his teammates’ growing process.

Many of LeBron’s teammates speak highly of his efforts and patience as a leader, too. He drives them with competition on the court and keeps their spirits high with words of wisdom off the court. His leadership never stops, and in turn, he has gained the kind of respect from his teammates that produces a successful leader.

LeBron’s consistent coaching has put out consistent results, given the injury-ridden Cavaliers just had another chance to win their first major sports championship in over 50 years.


3. Manage your team’s environment.

One of the most impressive things about LeBron as a leader is how he manages his environment. How often as a sales leader do you see your reps stressed out and underperforming? Believe it or not a lot of that can be the result of a rigid environment. LeBron James makes sure that the environment of his team is loose, relaxing and productive.

LeBron recently passed out Apple Watches to his teammates before the first game of the NBA finals. He knew stress was at an all-time high. He understood the pressure that came with performing well in the finals, just as a modern sales leader understands the pressure reps feel when trying to hit quotas. So before that game, he called a team meeting. But instead of the team talking about basketball, they talked about life. LeBron even hired a barber for the team to get free haircuts, along with the watches. This took the stress away from a typically stressful environment and got the team ready for optimal performance.


4. Keep the middleman in mind.

Every team has its top, middle and bottom performers. For LeBron’s team I think it’s fair to say that, himself included, there are three guys whose performance would place them in the top tier. As the leader of a team it’s easy to focus on the guys who consistently do well, like these three. But is that the best way to manage a team? LeBron doesn’t think so.

There are 15 players on Cleveland’s roster. For LeBron to focus on the top three performers would be ineffective, because at some point he’ll need the other 12. Just like you, as a sales leader, will need your middlemen to hit team goals.

By the last game of the season, two out of the top three players on Cleveland’s team were hurt, and LeBron was left depending on his middlemen to win games. Good thing they were ready to go.

So in summary, what does LeBron teach us?

Well for starters, that modern leadership wins. If you drive your team with KPIs in mind, coach constantly, control your environment and always include the middleman you’ll be well on your way to success as a modern sales leader, too.


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