Rick Johnson


Over the years I have developed a sales effectiveness program called Tier Level Selling

It promotes the concept that relationships have to be developed throughout the hierarchy of both organizations — the customer and the vendor. The vendor’s vice president of sales should have a relationship with key executives of the customer, not just with purchasing. The CEOs of both companies should have a relationship and so on throughout both organizations.

The 5-5-5 concept specifically applies to sales planning and targeting. Salespeople are asked to target and create action plans for accounts based on growth opportunity. They are to select five key accounts (Tier I) they are getting a lot of business from, but still have unrealized potential for further growth. 

Tier II is the selection of five current accounts where the opportunity for growth penetration is significant. Lastly, Tier III features five accounts that are just prospects or accounts salespeople are doing a little business with but have growth potential.

Could a similar concept be utilized for maximizing our effectiveness as leaders? Despite volumes of information available on the subject, almost every company I deal with struggles to varying degrees with creating, maximizing and maintaining effective leadership throughout their organization.


Inspire, influence and persuade

Academics tell us effective leadership is:

The capacity to influence others through inspirations generated by a passion and ignited by a purpose.

The capacity to inspire others to adapt to a corporate vision as their primary priority.

The process of persuasion and example by which an individual or leadership team induces a group to take action in accord with the leader’s purpose or the shared purposes of all.

Yuk! What the “hey” does that mean? Yes, it is all about inspiration, but just how do we learn to inspire and how do we specifically develop that skill? Is it genetic for those with charismatic personalities? Can you take a class in college to learn how to do it or is it about the development of your own personal leadership model influenced by the 5-5-5 concept?


5-5-5 leadership

How did our values originally form and how was our character formed or even our morality? These were formed by the influences, relationships and the culture we grew up in. Effective leadership continues to be a product of the culture and surroundings we choose to associate with.

There are three key areas of influence that impact the building of our personal leadership foundations — friends, the team we are part of at work and our continued self-education through avenues such as books, DVDs and workshops.

5 = Personal friends & associates: The nourishment of our character.

5 = Management team: Functional ability to execute. The nourishment of execution.

5 = Books we have read: Both business and fiction. The nourishment of our mind.


Nourishment of character

Take the time to reflect on the five people, other than family, that you associate with in your life. You may be surprised when you consider the kind of influence they have on your attitude, your thoughts and how you perceive life in general. I often speak about attitude in my leadership seminars and clearly state I absolutely refuse to associate with negative and pessimistic people. It is amazing the kind of influence the wrong people can have on our lives and our ability to become effective leaders.

Wikipedia defines influence as the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

I recently counseled a 14-year-old boy who was considering smoking marijuana with a group of older boys. I explained the danger of that decision wasn’t so much the act of smoking weed, but rather the influence of the group and culture he would be submitting himself to. All choices have consequences.

Studies have shown we ultimately become like those we associate with. Don’t let friends or associates become roadblocks to maximizing your effectiveness as a leader.


Nourishment of execution

Executive management teams typically consist on average of five segment managers, including the CEO. How effective is your team? Do you learn from each other? Do you hold each other accountable? Have you worked on becoming a better team that knows how to execute and meet objectives?

In doing workshops on Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” the majority of executive teams put their No. 2 team (their particular departmental team) ahead of the No. 1 team (executive management team). The other apparent struggle is the need for the ability to engage in positive healthy conflict.

No matter what title you hold or what team you are a member of, your team members have a distinct influence on the development of your personal leadership model, the ability to execute and your effectiveness as a leader. I often remind CEOs of a basic principle of leadership success: “You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”


Nourishment of mind

Just for fun, go around the room and ask each team member to list the last five books they have read. The results can be very interesting and may tell you a lot about who you are associated with. Training and education is not just the responsibility of our employer. In reality, the last five books you read can and will have a correlation to your focus, direction and leadership effectiveness.

Self-development includes activities that improve awareness and personal identity, develop talents and potential, facilitate employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

Unfortunately, on average most people only read one book per year once they have finished their education. I wonder if this has a direct correlation to the fact more than 90% of the population financially struggles when they retire.

I believe everyone has the ability to improve themselves regardless of the intellectual capacity they were born with. We all can’t become the CEO, but whatever position you find yourself in you have the God-given ability to improve it.



The 5-5-5 concept of leadership effectiveness will work, but it takes commitment. Think about past performance when you did something because you had to. That simply is compliance compared to the results you achieved doing something you were excited about and committed to.

Commitment is one of the most powerful influences in the universe and commitment with a passion is unbeatable. Most of us are not born leaders, however a good percentage of us long to become leaders of men and women and make deep connections in our careers seeking that ultimate leadership position.

Effective leadership and commitment are intertwined. Leadership and commitment help create solidarity and solidarity implies a unity within a group that enables it to manifest its strength and exert its influence as a group. Unity implies oneness, especially of what is varied or diverse in its direction or clarity. Unity describes the inner relationships of individual team members making up the whole.

The key then is winning commitment from others, including other team members. We do this by earning their trust and respect. Here are three keys to gaining commitment from others.

Clarity of purpose: Objectives must be clear and accompanied by reasonable expectations in a timely manner.

Shared excitement: Individual and corporate benefits must be understood, accepted and cared about.

Debate, accountability and healthy conflict: This must precede final decisions to ensure everyone has been heard and offered their opinions with open debate.

Effective leaders create these conditions and nurture the process, creating trust and respect.


“Leadership is easy. Just find a bunch of people going in the same direction and jump in front of them” —Willie Nelson


Effective leaders make emotional connections with the management team that surrounds them. They must encourage people to open up, share dialog and reveal dreams. They must teach and mentor. But it’s not as easy as Willie Nelson would have you believe.

A good leader is not intimidated by the success of others. A good leader encourages others to succeed and helps fulfill their wants and needs. Leveraging leadership helps determine the hidden factors in communication. Understanding inferences and assertions becomes a key component to understanding people.