Unleashing Excellence: What Outstanding Call Center Leaders Do

Dennis Snow

Are effective leaders born or are they developed? That question has been debated in thousands of books, articles, speeches and forums. While there are some characteristics effective leaders may have acquired early in life (I don’t believe they were born with them); I also believe that leadership skills can be developed later in life. And these skills aren’t based on personality or charisma, nor are they dictated by a person’s Myers-Briggs profile. No matter their style, effective leaders do three things very well.

1. Effective leaders Operationalize the Call Center's Mission. The organization’s mission is at the core of the effective leader’s actions. Whether the mission is to Create Happiness (Walt Disney World); to be Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen (Ritz Carlton); or to Help Customers Achieve Their Financial Dreams (First Citizens Bank), effective leaders keep the mission in front of their employees throughout the hiring process and new hire and ongoing training, and they see every communication opportunity as one more tool to keep the mission on the radar.

2. Effective call center leaders involve the call center employees in the forward movement of the organization. There may have been a time when the leader had the answers to every business issue that would arise. The leader had formal authority and was usually an expert in all phases of the operation. Due to changing customer expectations and competition, those days are over. Today's call center leaders must rely on the skills of a facilitator and call center idea champion. The effective call center leader sees call center representatives as partners in coming up with new ways to delight customers.

3. Effective call center leaders make excellence non-negotiable.
Lack of accountability in the call center is the number one reason many (or most) organizational improvement initiatives fail to achieve their desired results. When call center leaders look the other way when a call center representative performs in an unacceptable manner, even the best improvement plans begin to collapse. One of my favorite leadership quotes is:

Intolerable performance exists when intolerable performance is tolerated.

An important behavior of effective call center leaders is that they never let the coaching moment go. If there’s a call center performance issue, they handle it without delay. A related behavior of effective call center leaders is that they never let the recognition moment go. They let strong performers know that their call center performance is truly appreciated.

While there are certainly other qualities effective call center leaders demonstrate, I believe these three provide the foundation for excellent leadership performance. Call center leaders who excel in these areas lead high performing teams that deliver superior results.


Make an honest appraisal of your own call center leadership performance. Ask yourself:

  • Do my call center representatives see me living our organization’s mission and values every day?
  • Do I refuse to compromise on our call center’s commitment to excellence? Is call center excellence "non-negotiable?"

Most of us must admit that we have room for improvement in each of these areas of call center leadership performance. Admitting it is the first step. The next step is to make a commitment to raise the bar of your own leadership performance in the call center and take action. Leaders who truly unleash the excellence of their organizations are those who see every day as an opportunity to become a better call center leader.

First published on Call Center IQ.