Leading the Marketing Team in a Changing World

Innovating and taking action to generate results is not a solo effort; rather, it requires a highly cohesive team. This is especially true these days as chief marketing officers (CMOs) and other senior marketing executives are increasingly at the epicenter of their organizations, needing to take a holistic business approach to drive meaningful change across the enterprise, and to create competitive advantage and market leadership.

More than ever today, organizations are expected to be highly responsive to the marketplace—the needs, desires, and demands of customers/consumers because power has shifted to them. To be successful, marketing leaders need to draw on specific competencies, particularly in three core areas that will help them deliver against the today’s targets and expectations for the future. These competencies, which are critical to marketing leaders’ success and should be part of the talent development of marketing leaders, are:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
 –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To increase/enhance Inspiring Others
 Do  Don’t
Get to know other people and what really
motivates them
Underestimate the power of relationships
Adjust your approach to meet other people’s
needs and interests
Leave people guessing why are we do this
Use metaphors and analogies to paint a
picture that others can relate to
Assume that delivering a message once is all that’s needed to gain buy-in
Express gratitude for efforts and reward achievements
Fake it
Make sure your message has substance
Move too fast without getting other people on board

Be ready to compromise some aspect of
your vision to appeal to common interests
Treat everyone the same; some talented individuals need to be treated differently from the rest of the team

The do’s and don’ts of inspiring others—the foundation for all CMO success

Inspiring Others

Inspired and motivated teams embrace a vision of the future that is different from the current reality. Without that vision to motivate them, it is difficult to drive meaningful and sustainable change with actions that produce measurable outcomes. Motivation, however, is neither automatic nor consistent from person to person. Nonetheless, each team member must be inspired to give focus, energy, and commitment to operate at his or her peak.

CMOs and other senior marketing leaders who are truly transformative rely on the core competency of “inspiring others” to develop a clear and compelling vision and then communicate that vision in a way that appeals to the core interests and values of their constituents. They’re able to close the gap between the current reality and the future they foresee, and, in the process, ignite passion in others. With inspiration also comes permission to try and fail, with greater emphasis on the lessons learned that will lead to greater success in the future.

Senior executives who are strong in the competency of inspiring others tend to be enthusiastic and animated, as well as diplomatic and convincing. They consistently demonstrate the ability to bring their teams and the whole organization to a higher level. As good negotiators, they come up with fair outcomes and promote a common cause.

Among senior leaders in general there is a tendency to score low in the competency of inspiring others (although indications are that marketing leaders would score higher than the average). Those who lack this skill, which tends to be difficult to develop, have a hard time leading change. Without a strong ability to inspire and motivate others, they can’t sell a vision for the future, or strike a deal that is embraced as being fair to everyone.

At the other end of the spectrum, those who overuse the competency of inspiring others may rely on motivation too much at the expense of real substance. And, they may talk so much about the future that they leave others behind in the present.

When brought together, the three core competencies—creating the new and different, focusing in action and outcomes, and inspiring others—are the secret to successful marketing leadership. When marketing leaders master these competencies, they are most likely to be successful in their roles.

The world continues to change for senior marketing executives, who must navigate complexity while driving a change agenda across the enterprise. As change is expected to continue and even accelerate, CMOs and other senior marketers will lead the charge boldly toward a future they envision. The competency of inspiring others helps marketing leaders drive teams that embrace a vision for an exciting and promising future.

  Caren Fleit leads Korn/Ferry International‘s Global Marketing Center of Expertise. She is a Senior Client Partner in the firm’s Consumer/Retail practice, based in New York.


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