The content for this post was first published on FastCompany.com in the article “Have You Been Thinking About Sales Leadership All Wrong?” on April 7, 2022.
The Battle Between Sales Leaders and Sales Managers
Let me ask you a question: Would you prefer the title Sales Leader or Sales Manager?
I’m willing to bet that a great many of you picked Sales Leader over Sales Manager. Now, I have no facts or proof to back this up. However, I have conducted some unscientific surveys in my training sessions and consultations. And I’d have to say that more than 90% of the participants prefer the title Sales Leader over Sales Manager. Why is that?
I’m thinking that this is primarily a function of our society. That maybe leadership-oriented tasks are interpreted as more noble, more thoughtful, or even superior while management-related tasks feel menial and monotonous.
Now think about that for a moment. According to our societal expectations, to be a leader means you are out in front, standing apart from the crowd, leading the charge! When we go out shopping for expertise, we look for the leaders in the field. If we’re looking for new ideas, we turn to thought leaders. When we look for direction in a group, we look for group leaders. My perception is that we see leaders as someone like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings – wise, brave, resolute, steadfast… someone who is willing to stand on a bridge and face down a demon shouting, “YOU WILL NOT PASS!”
As for managers? Well, you can find managers at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
Eliminating the Competition Between Sales Leadership and Sales Management
So naturally, the participants in my sessions gravitate to having leadership somewhere in their title because it’s perceived in our culture as better. And this is not right.
There is a difference between leadership and management, but it has nothing to do with superiority, sexiness, or any other tag our society wants to put on them. If you look at the definitions in Wikipedia, they define leadership as “…the ability of an individual, group, or organization to ‘lead’, influence, or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations.”
Management, however, is defined as, “the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a non-profit organization, or a government body. It is the art and science of managing resources of the business.”
This is why, in my latest article in Fast Company, I show you that you need to be good at both. Titled, “Have You Been Thinking About Sales Leadership All Wrong?” I make the case for developing both skills. Whether your title contains Sales Manager, Sales Leader, Sales Director, Chief Sales Officer, or CEO, as you grow your career and your organization, you will split your time between leadership and management.
Lead your people and manage your processes. Help your people be the best they can be.