Of Managers and Leaders is required reading for those who use the terms ‘leaders’ and ‘managers’ synonymously. In reality, leadership and management are at different ends of the spectrum. While leadership behavior is synonymous with innovation, motivation, idea origination and trust, management solely relies on effectively directing resources to achieve pre-set goals.

Here are 5 differences between sales leaders and managers:

1) The Communication Difference

While both a sales leader and manager will be aware of the benefits of effective communication, only leaders will follow the rule of two-way communication and feedback. Managers are looking for super closers that meet their daily targets and perform to a standard level. Managers will therefore work towards these goals by constantly telling employees different ways to meet these specific targets. Sales leaders differ in their approach by analyzing the bigger picture and paying attention not only to the numbers but to the sales reps as a whole.

Leaders want employees, not just to perform well but to reach the highest pinnacles of their skill. Unlike managers, leaders work with sales reps to identify any issues that presently exist, identify the root cause of the problem and devise a tactical plan to correct it. The inherent value in gaining feedback from sales reps and then providing insights into the issue cannot be overstated.

2) Directing vs. Developing

The main goal for a sales manager is to have sales reps produce results on each assignment to drive business. As long as the employees perform as expected and deliver results, the manager can sit back in his office and feel satisfied with his work. Where managers stop at directing, sales leaders start by developing.

Leaders work towards making the job challenging so employees have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Sales leaders have a crucial role in motivating and coaching sales reps and building sales capabilities across the board. This will transform into long term business growth. The focus with a sales leader is not just short term targets but long term success.

3) The Freedom to Innovate and Experiment

While sales managers stress about getting the job done perfectly, sales leaders thrive under the divide between risk and opportunities. Managers cannot really afford to experiment with new strategies. They follow routine and procedure and only brainstorm about contingency plans in the event of unexpected circumstances.

Sales leaders rely on innovation to maximize returns. They get their sales reps to think out of the box. Leaders are not only innovative thinkers themselves but encourage their people to go the extra mile by providing them with the flexibility and freedom to make their own decisions. Leaders empower their sales reps to succeed.

4) Vision and Mission

The sales leadership creates a vision for others to follow. The leaders not only create a vision but are responsible for making their people adopt this vision and work towards it. This quote illustrates what a leader is all about: “My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” —General Montgomery. Sales leaders are far more important characters when it comes to long-term goals.

Managers, manage on a day-to-day basis.

5) Leaders need to be Developed

While there’s no doubt there are certain qualities that make a leader, nowhere does it say that these qualities cannot be developed over time. I believe that the leader can be developed.

The key to developing great leaders is to mentor and coach them. By using internal and external mentors who can impart their knowledge and experience you can accelerate the development of your top managers.


Of managers and leaders, leaders venture where managers don’t, they’re more willing to take risks and also have sharpened and honed their instincts in order to excel at achieving business goals. Leaders do not limit themselves to one task they have a role in all aspects of the business from creating a vision, to motivating and energizing sales reps to achieve this vision. While the leaders create strategies for implementation, managers direct resources and monitor implementation of strategies to ensure that the vision of the leaders can be realized efficiently.

In essence, sales leadership is critical to both the short term and long term success of your business. Without great sales leaders, businesses would suffer. Make sure you are developing your sales managers into great leaders.


Of Mice and Men is required reading for my daughter in school.

Make “Of Managers and Leaders” required reading for your leadership team.

About the author

Steven Rosen

Steven’s mission is to inspire sales leaders, managers and sales people to achieve their…

Online Courses

Learn anywhere, any time, on any device.


Learn Online

Self-paced courses from the
world's top sales experts

Virtual Training

Live, interactive instruction in small
groups with master trainers


One-to-one personalized coaching
focused on your unique situation