Dear Colleagues!  This is Pharma Veterans Blog Post #447. Pharma Veterans welcomes sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Leadership Pitfalls is a topic that has been taken up by numerous authors on numerous occasions. Those are highly accomplished people with a wealth of knowledge and experience. It would be unfortunate if I copy/paste some of their findings here. My core industry is Pharmaceuticals, and I would rather go through my own long years in the industry to point out common pitfalls among leaders in Pharma Sales.

The leadership starts when a salesperson/medical rep is promoted as first line manager. The title may be any, but the position is first line management. Leadership responsibility increases with upgradation to zonal management and then national management.

In earlier blogposts and my Vlogs (, I have forcefully put forth the thesis that the Pharma managers are ‘managers’ not ‘leaders’, and they should focus on learning management rather than leadership. I still hold on to that stance and would like to point out management ‘pitfalls’, rather than ‘leadership pitfalls’.

Rushing to Lead before Getting Accepted – This pitfall starts right after taking over the first management position. The new manager considers that everything has changed overnight. The usual scenario is that several people are working in the team at the same level. They are equals, they joke with each other, they fight, they compete, they argue, they go out and they enjoy good time. There is no protocol among them, but there may be a sense of camaraderie among them. One person gets promoted and becomes ‘the manager’. It is natural to expect that the team members will take time to adjust to the new reality. It will also take time and effort to bring in formality and protocol. The new managers rush to take on formal leadership position without waiting for colleagues to accept them. This may be the beginning of conflict.

Another variation is when a senior salesperson in one company leaves from there and joins another company as manager. The team there have no idea what kind of person he is. The new manager also does not know anything about the team members. Rushing to take over may not go down well with the team

It is advisable to first get accepted and then manage/lead. Acceptance comes from several factors. I shall list three main factors to consider.

One, true superiority in a relevant area brings acceptance. Better knowledge, better communication, better interpersonal skills, better selling skills, better business skills, better achievements and so on. Softly display and project the superiority you have and give it time to get assimilated.

Two, be supportive. Rather than commanding, it is better to support in various job areas. Sales planning, customer conversion, skills learning are good areas to focus. Support the team members to become proficient and they will accept you more heartily.

Three, be humble. Arrogance is neither a virtue nor a benefit practically. It may cause strained relations, trust loss and work loss though.

Rushing to Change Position – The biggest pass time of sales teams is company-bashing and bosses-bashing. Whenever they get together, this is automatically the favorite topic. The bosses are discussed, the policies are discussed, and everyone participates fully to point out flaws and issues in policies and bosses. The new manager, who was quite vocal against company policies and bosses, now becomes a defender of both. The contradiction is so obvious that it is not ignored by the team members, who may not take it graciously.

You cannot go back in time and erase all that you had been saying. You should first become quiet for some time, till the previous effect is cooled off. Then you may start changing the position gradually.

Rushing to Become Elder – The new managers tend to think they have grown in age by 10-12 years overnight. They start calling colleagues who may be a year or two years younger to them as ‘Beta (son)’. It is disproportionate to the extent of being ludicrous.

The elderliness is not just limited to words, it is also reflected in gestures and actions. An overall patronizing and condescending style become the usual demeanor. The other roles of managers are more or less lost.

The solution is to get rid of Big Brother behavior immediately. It is a professional position, not a family thing. You should be happy to be big brother to your own younger siblings, not others. As soon as you get out the big brother skin, you will start seeing thing differently.

To be Continued……

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