Exploring distributed leadership practice

24th September 2018 |   Roy Chua

Project summary

My research project sought to understand the business impact that distributed leadership practice can bring to a sales-focused environment and how cultural differences can affect the practice within a global organization. Research was conducted with a team of Center of Excellence (COE) professionals focusing on platform solutions sales. Evaluation of impact was measured, based on the COEs’ impact on sales pipeline generation and management, also referred to as demand management in this article.

While doing literature research for my study, I found that that distributed leadership practice has been well embraced by the academic world and education institutions but to a limited extent within the corporate business environment. Research conducted within this study focused on formal interviews and informal follow-up with research participants, comprising COE team members from different countries, business operations, senior management team, and business operations. Demand management meetings were also conducted on a fortnightly basis to ascertain the impact of the practice within a business setting, comprising of both the research participants and general audience who were not informed of this research.

The study concludes that distributed leadership applied to the COE team within the corporation had a very positive impact on fostering team collaboration and improving business outcomes – in this context sales pipeline performance. The study indicates that cultural differences have limited influence on the practice, contradicting my initial hypothesis that led me to this research. The recommendations from this project are aimed at sales-support function team managers (COE, pre-sales, industry team) to cultivate the appropriate environment to inspire proactive ownership of business objectives and issues, enhance inter- and intra-team collaboration, and to drive favourable business impact.

Can distributed leadership practice bring positive impact in a sales focused environment?


The COE is a team of highly skilled and senior solution experts, each responsible for a specific solutions area, product line or area of focus. Their responsibilities include primarily sales pipeline (demand) management and revenue attainment for their responsible lines of business. Within these two main pillars, COEs are also engaged in strategic customer support and adoption, go-to-market (GTM) planning, thought leadership and many other ad hoc activities.

I had personally experienced first-hand how a good COE can greatly impact the success of a new and fast-growing business but for the business to run at scale, we need to have healthy sales pipeline to ensure success of the wider sales team. In an outcome based culture, it is normal for an individual to invest time in supporting deal closure where recognition is often given more readily versus demand generation.

Head of Innovation Office, SAP Asia Pacific & Japan

Roy Chua is the Head of Innovation Office, SAP Asia Pacific & Japan. He leads a team of dynamic Solutions COEs, design thinkers and business iInnovation strategists, spearheading innovation journeys with customers to explore different business models and apply cutting-edge technologies to deliver the desired outcomes. Chua is based in Singapore and holds a Masters of Science degree in Leading Sales Transformation and Bachelor degree in Computer Science and Information Systems.