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4 Prompts to Sell Yourself as a Leader

A woman leader selling herself and her ideas in a presentation


People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
 –– John Maxwell


By John Millen

There was a time long ago and far away when leaders would speak and employees would take their marching orders, salute and get the job done.

Many organizations have leaders who seem stuck in that state of mind. Time has moved on and they still wonder why their people 'haven't gotten the memo.' (A CEO actually said that line to me about his employees.)

In coaching leaders like these, I tell them that today leadership and, indeed life, is about sales. With new generational attitudes in the workplace and the fragmentation of communications in our digital world, leaders must sell themselves and their ideas to succeed.

This was reinforced for me when I read The Art of Sale, Learning From the Masters About the Business of Life by Phillip Delves Broughton, which I recommend. He follows salespeople in many different professions around the world and shows that for all of us today, life is sales. 

Steve Jobs, the late Apple visionary, certainly demonstrated the importance of a leader selling his ideas and himself.

Warren Buffett does the same with his raucous annual shareholder meeting, deep annual letter and frequent media interviews.

Selling Yourself and Your Ideas

These and other leaders show the importance of expressing yourself to build your leader brand and implement your ideas. Here are four prompts to making this happen:

1. Be Real

More than anything today, employees want you to be open and honest about what is going on. Drop the corporate-speak and get to the point.

And you need to be authentic all the time: every time you stand up to talk or send out an email, you are selling yourself and your ideas. You should have a few consistent, powerful messages that resonate with your most important audiences.

If you're at the level where someone else writes your messages, you must make them your own. Translate these messages in a way that feels comfortable and authentic for you.

If you don't, people will sniff out your discomfort: you'll feel awkward and they'll feel they're getting the same old blah, blah, blah.

2. Be Engaging

The best way to engage your employees is to talk about what matters to them. Leaders will often go through long presentations talking abstractly about the implications for the organization and miss the punch line; what this means for employees.

You should also be a collector and sharer of stories from your organization. Nothing is more powerful than stories in engaging people and influencing their perceptions and behavior.

3. Be Passionate

Selling anything is always easier if it engages the emotions. As a general rule, an audience will be excited if you show your passion. But this is not an exciting subject, I'm present financial analysis, you might say. Well, if you believe it's dull then it is.

If you can find what is interesting and compelling in your work, you will exponentially increase your people's interest.

Practice speaking with emotion in your voice and avoid being monotone and using clichés. Your employees want to know you're excited. Be excited!

4. Be Optimistic

Nearly every major organization in every country is going through continuous change. Effectively leading organizations through change is a big part of every leader's responsibility.

An enormous part of leading through change is remaining optimistic and confident about the future. It's okay to be honest and candid about some of the challenges you will face, but everyone can be encouraged and pointed towards a brighter future.

Begin using these techniques and you'll notice a shift in the feedback you get and the attitudes of your team. Most importantly, you'll find a difference in the quality and quantity of your results.

Go ahead and try it this week: sell yourself and your ideas. 

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John Millen

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