Competition-Inducing Leadership

In my early sales career, I experienced what now has the fancy title of CIL – Competition Inducing Leadership.

Basically, it’s where a sales leader creates an environment of competition among their employees.

Good idea or bad idea?

For those who know me, they would tell you that I’m quite a competitive character … especially in sport.

However, in business, I’m not inspired to succeed based on beating my peers. I’m inspired to succeed based on my own intrinsic motivational criteria including:

  • Succeeding through values-aligned marketing and sales activity
  • Succeeding through personal growth and learning
  • Succeeding through making a positive difference to my clients’ lives
  • Succeeding through personal goal achievement

My experience with CIL was it was demotivating, exhausting and a source of overwhelm … and the research suggests I am not alone.

CIL can certainly be a motivator for salespeople who are driven by extrinsic motivators (for example pay, ego boosts based on others’ opinions [yes … that’s an external motivator, not an intrinsic one], and the drive to beat others).

However, while CIL can benefit some salespeople, for others  it can result in exhaustion and underperformance.

If you’re a sales leader, tread carefully if you’re practicing CIL.


Maximilian Friess, Sascha Alavi, Johannes Habel & Bianca Richter (2023) When sales leaders induce competition among sales employees: a source of motivation or exhaustion?, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

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