Many top performers in network marketing focus on developing powerful techniques and strategies to help their new people get started right in the business. Yet I encourage leaders to also focus on developing the people themselves.

Before we buy into companies, visions or goals, we buy into people. When leaders try to build a following, no technique or approach can overcome a lack of personal character. I have witnessed many incredible technicians in our profession having to rebuild their entire businesses, not because they lacked skills, but because they lacked character.

If you plan on leading a large community for the long term, personal character is not an option. As Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”

A team follows the example of its leader in nearly all cases. If the leader cuts corners, the team cuts corners; if the leader exaggerates, the team exaggerates, if the leader mismanages funds, the team mismanages funds. It’s tragic enough to see a leader destroy his own credibility and business, yet the real tragedy occurs when innocent members are sunk in the ship with their characterless captain.

If you are going to take the time to master the skills necessary to build a large network, why not also invest in your leadership development to make it last?

Leadership Principles in Action

When you help a new distributor get started, you are not simply teaching skills to a robot. A new person can prospect and share the product and compensation plan with or without character, and my point isn’t to stop actions in order to form character. In fact, I believe that developing good character requires activity to apply the appropriate principles over time. The key is to implement a program of leadership development along with skills development.

For example, the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is accepted in nearly every culture. This is a great principle to hear, but an even better principle to see modeled. As a Christian, I love St. Francis of Assisi’s teaching: “Preach the gospel, and when necessary use words.” Leaders who want to teach character could apply the same concept: “Teach character, and when necessary use words.”

In our book Launching a Leadership Revolution, Chris Brady and I present the Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledger (TLL). The TLL model explains how to multiply your performance in three critical areas of leadership: Character, Task and Relationships. Leaders score themselves from one to ten in each area, then multiply all three scores for a total leadership score. A perfect score would be 10 x 10 x 10, which equals 1,000, but the score most people get when they first start out in network marketing is zero. Why? Because, if you score zero in any category, then your total score will be zero, since anything multiplied by zero is zero.

When I got started in the business, my leadership score was a zero because my relationship score was a zero—and this was no exaggeration. My high school yearbook senior picture caption read: “Arguing, arguing, early and late, if a line were crooked, he would argue it straight.” Clearly, I had to change in order to lead!

Leaders of communities need to model the principles in each of the three categories if they want to improve the leadership of their team:

1. First, start with modeling the right character to others. People will follow you only as far as they trust you. If you want leaders for life, treat their business as you do your own business. People will forgive lack of skills, but will rarely forgive a lack of character. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I encourage you to do a full examination of your character, as it speaks louder than your words. In today’s pragmatic world, the latest product launch typically gets more attention than enduring leadership principles, which proves our culture’s predilection for the ephemeral over the eternal.

2. Second, develop your task category through action habits. Why put off till tomorrow what you can accomplish today? Procrastination is the assassination of motivation. I love the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” You don’t think your way into new actions as much as you act your way into new thinking. If you have a dream, then get moving! Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn how to do it well. If you think of someone you should contact, just do it. If you think of someone who needs encouragement, just give it. If you have an unresolved conflict with another person but are afraid to sit down and talk with them about it, just do it. Leaders get results because they master tasks.

3. Third, learn to relate to others. Being naturally shy and introverted, I had to learn how to come out of my shell and connect with others. Leaders must confront their weaknesses to turn them into strengths. By reading the best books on people skills and applying those skills nightly while showing the plan, I slowly but surely improved my ability to understand people. The most important subject in most people’s lives is themselves, so it follows that when you focus on their needs, they will be attracted to you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care—but after they know you care, you better know something.

Mastering the skills of getting people started right in our business is critical, but even more important to your long-term success is getting people right. Success is a journey. No matter what the scoreboard says, we can always choose to improve our character, our tasks and our relationships, and thereby begin the journey anew.

ORRIN WOODWARD is coauthor of the of the
New York Times, Business Weekly, USA Today,
Money best-seller, Launching a Leadership
Revolution. Together with Chris Brady, he leads
a network marketing organization of several
tens of thousands of people. Their common goal
is to raise the level of professionalism and
leadership in network marketing.