The Leadership Boom Is Making Sales Managers Stupid

by Chris Young

Tim Sanders recently penned The_Leadership_Boom_is_Making_Sales_Managers_Stupida piece titled, Is the Leadership Boom Making Us Bad Managers?

Tim writes...  

"Over the last fifteen years, leadership programming has dominated training programs, bestseller lists and conference agendas. No one really wants to write or talk about management, as it lacks the allure of helping others become leaders...
But still, there's something eating away at me: Are we neglecting to train managers on what it takes to manage? Name a best selling book you've read on it lately. How about a general session keynote at a conference on management excellence?" 

I have been concerned about this for some time.

A perfect storm of leadership mediocrity has been brewing for years and it is silently destroying sales.  

To be clear, the "leadership boom" needed to happen.  It just went way, way too far.  Complete idiots posing as experts continue to write books by the hundreds and are furiously blogging.  Some of these pundits are actually furious!  

Take a hard look at what many of the authors and freelance bloggers writing about leadership these days. Better yet, look at their credentials.  The general lack of experience is frightening.  Some of these people are extremely young and extremely inexperienced.  Yet many of these inexperienced "experts" are getting published on some of the top business websites.  

The result is a perfect storm of leadership and management mediocrity.   

Tim is absolutely right.  The leadership "boom" has made many managers bad and allowed good managers to become lousy.  The threat of a manager hearing, "My boss is an asshole!" scares the hell out of too many.  

A comment to Tim's piece by Carmen Honacker summarized my sentiments precisely.  She said, 

"...The problem is that there are quite a few leaders who are not managers. They are leaders, because someone appointed them into that role and yes, they can and will run businesses into the ground."  


The current leadership boom is creating peer pressure, guilt, and crappy talent management strategy.

Peer pressure, guilt, and crappy talent management strategy are facilitating the hiring of sales posers and dramatically slowing down accountability.  

Because far too many HR professionals and sales managers still believe they have an eye for sales talent, we have way too many crappy salespeople being hired in droves.  Smart HR professionals and sales managers use a multi-science sales personality and aptitude test to objectively identify top sales talent.  


There are few strategic HR professionals and sales managers.  

Salespeople who suck are blaming their managers for not leading them well.  As a result of the "leadership boom", sales managers are feeling intense pressure to try to save those who cannot be saved.  You cannot save a salesperson who was truly not meant to be in sales - particularly outside sales.  


All the wonderful leadership sweet nothings in the world will not fix broken job fit.  Only a competent manager can do that.

I have looked into the sad eyes of sales managers forced to try to lead: to try to inspire, motivate, and engage salespeople who sucked last year, continue to suck today, will suck tomorrow, and will absolutely suck in five years.  It is haunting.  

Many have read the leadership books without touching a single management book.  Many sales managers are Sales_Managers_need_to_lead_and_manage_salespeoplebrainwashed into believing there is hope in turning a crappy salesperson into a real sales professional.  Some sales managers who never drank the Kool Aid are forced by well-meaning HR to try to improve the performance of low performers.  

You cannot change what God has made. Who do you think you are anyways?  Oh wait.  You read a leadership book on a plane trip that said, "Simply inspire this way, motivate that particular way, and you can get anyone to do practically anything because they want to - not because they have to.  And if you are unsuccessful, you are a lousy leader."  

No amount of leadership fancy talk is going to overcome broken job fit.  You cannot turn someone into a good salesperson if they do not have the requisite Behaviors, Motivators, Acumen, and Skills to sell well.  It is fundamentally impossible. 

Yet a competent manager will do what needs to be done - remove the low performer with bad job fit.


Authors will continue to write and publishers will continue to publish leadership crap.

To be fair...  Not all leadership crap is crap, just most of it.  I never see a warning on page one that says,


Before you try this at work, make sure the salespeople you try these largely untested theories on are actually "wired" to sell.  

Do not attempt this leadership stuff on salespeople who do not fit their job because it will just embolden and empower them to believe they should keep that job regardless of performance.  

The author has never actually lead anyone.  The author has only read about it from other authors who also have never actually lead anyone.  

The author is very angry with a past manager who attempted to hold them accountable to do the work for which they are hired.  This book or blog post is retribution and therapy yet the author is destined to repeat their past failures because they have not looked in the mirror to accept responsibility for their contributions (or lack of).  


The leadership and employee engagement movement has taken its own life now.  It is more than just a fad; it is a serious movement.  Like an economic bubble, this movement shall continue until the world can no longer take it.  

The good news is we are seeing influential leadership gurus like Tim Sanders begin to take notice that the desired effects are not materializing they way hoped.  And we are seeing "old school" management gurus like Jack Welch continue to share their tried and true views on management that work and work well.  


First hire the best salespeople - THEN lead AND manage.  

If you hire crappy or mediocre salespeople, no amount of leadership moxie is going to help you get to the top.  

Hire the best salespeople possible by incorporating a multi-science sales personality and aptitude test. Then lead and manage them.  Get to know your salespeople at a deep level, push them, and engage them.


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