Sales Leadership or Sales Management

In this blog post I am going to explore whether you should be practicing Sales Leadership or Sales Management. Both are important to having a winning sales team that consistently crushes their numbers. However, there are significant differences in approach, style and results that you need to understand and implement.

In 1987 I coined a phrase which is now by credo for this subject. Management is the Science of Reaction, Leadership is the Art of Action. I speak about this in detail in my book Sales Leadership: Distinctions with a Difference. If you would like to get a copy please go to my online publisher.

Sales Leadership: Distinctions with a Difference

To dig deep into the whole area of Sales Leadership or Sales Management, check out Steve Rosen’s offers at

Let’s examine 5 differences between Sales Leadership or Sales Management.

Sales Managers React – Sales Managers Act

This one distinction is a key differentiator between Managers and Leaders. This does not mean that Leaders will always take action in advance of a situation. Leaders will work through a disciplined decision process, and with purpose and intent respond to the situation. They know full well they may need to stay engaged to monitor and, if necessary, provide further direction or guidance as appropriate.

As an example, you have 6 people who report to you and one of them resigns with no warning. A manager would probably immediately start the process to fill the position or if under budget pressure maybe simply decide to leave it vacant. A leader would probably do multiple things including try to find out the real reason for the resignation, conduct a review to determine how critical the position is to figure out whether to fill it with a promotion or new hire or possibly leave vacant if appropriate. To many,these may seem like the same thing but philosophically they are very different.

You Manage Resources – You Lead Individuals

You can manage an individual’s schedule, you can manage their career, you can manage their performance but you must lead the individual. When you start down the path of managing the individual you lose perspective on the skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses that make the individual unique among others. Leadership is highly personal. Management is very impersonal. Nowhere is this more obvious than when large organizations downsize and little or no attention is paid to the individual and decisions are taken based purely on numbers or seniority.

Managers Focus On Rules – Leaders Focus On Values

Any organization that puts Rules ahead of Values limits its potential for success. Rules are important but secondary to clearly articulated and well understood Values. Rules are not always well defined. Some are written down but many are more cultural based on what has been allowed or approved in the past. If your first step to resolving a problem or issue is to look to the Rules then you are in Management mode. This is not a criticism but rather a reality. Another way of stating this is the adage that ‘Managers do Things Right whereas Leaders do the Right Things’. This does not mean that Leaders can flaunt the rules and simply do what they want. Leaders should not ever be compelled to blindly follow rules without understanding the full context of the situation and circumstances.

Rules or Values. Do you focus on Sales Leadership or Sales Management?

Managers Focus On Process, Leaders Focus On Outcomes

Process is important but only if it serves the organization and gets you to the desired result or outcome. You are in danger of becoming a slave to the process when it becomes more important than achieving the outcome. There may be times or situations where an exception needs to be made for practical or expediency reasons to ignore the process. When completely avoiding the process becomes the rule rather than the exception, you have a culture crisis that goes well beyond process and outcome. A Manager will insist on process simply because that is how it is supposed to be. Their role in the process often gives them perceived influence or power they are typically unwilling to forego. A Leader will focus on the outcome supporting the process but continually looking for ways to improve or streamline the process if and when necessary.

Managers Insist On Compliance, Leaders Ask For Commitment

This is perhaps more philosophical than the others but it does highlight quite dramatically the mindset difference between Managers and Leaders. Compliance is all about following the rules and the processes. It is also about understanding and accepting your limits of authority and not accepting responsibility for anything you do not have to. Most pointedly, it is where your success is measured by your lack of failure. Commitment is all about doing what you said you would do long after the emotion you said it with has left you. Leaders provide a vision and goals on an individual and collective basis, . They then ask for their reports to make the commitment to meet or exceed those expectations.

Compliance versus Commitment. Do you focus on Sales Leadership or Sales Management?

Have a great week and before you go be sure to check out my online courses and resources here.

You will also enjoy my Daily 2 Minute Leadership and Sales Thoughts. These are organized into weekly themes. Check them out here at

You will also enjoy my Sales Quickies Uncensored video series. These are very short 1 minute videos to highlight a specific sales tip, technique, quote or cliché. Just because it is short does not mean you cannot learn from it. Find them at

You will also enjoy my Sales Leader Challenges Thoughts. There are 25 in total. Check them out at 

Wayne Fredin
Wayne Fredin

With over 40 years of experience as an Army Officer, a Sales Executive in both public and private companies and having been self employed, Wayne is a highly respected Sales Trainer, Coach and Mentor. Having published Sales Leadership: Distinctions With a Difference in 2015 he had now created a series of online sales training courses, tools and resources.