Distributed Sales Leadership

Here’s a concept I’d love to get my teeth into. Top business grad factory MIT Sloan’s Deborah Ancona heads their Leadership Centre.


She’s coined Distributed Leadership (which she acknowledges incorporates what others have termed “shared”, “collaborative”, or “complexity” leadership).

It’s about the live shift today from hierarchical corporate structures to flatter, more empowered ones.

There are four key areas of leadership here: visioning, relating, sense making, and inventing.

Evidence has been observed that companies supported by such mindset perform well (even citing Google as one golden  example).

They exhibit three traits;

  1. Leadership functions can be spread across multiple individuals and teams
  2. Leadership can be taken on by those not in formal leadership roles
  3. Change can be driven from the bottom up

This chimed so loud with me. There is a constant dilemma for the leaders of salesforces I interact with. On the one hand, they yearn to delegate (often interesting and essential for ‘tomorrow’) projects throughout their team. Yet they always resist due to fear that such distractions may damage performance against quota.

The lesson of these academics is chill. Build the energy that these projects can create and benefit from it.

Keys include responsibility, structured collaboration and an eye on increasing innovation and adaptability.

Sales is one arena where opportunities surely overflow in this sphere. I’m thinking of things like new product development planning, support evolution, value pricing reviews, piloting new sector activity. And let’s not go down the road of these all being Marketing’s role.

If you’re a sales manager, why not think of a project to award out? Be careful not to trade it off against reduced targets of course. There’s bound to be an eventual thank you for a job well done that isn’t related to cash.

If you’re a salesperson in the field, what’s bugging you? Who shares your pain? Get together and produce a plan to do something about it. One that doesn’t impact on your target-chasing duties of course. Remember to apply serious thought to how you present your ideas.

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