Modern-Day Marketing Leadership

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written on the topic of leadership. So there's no need for me to pontificate on the general traits of an effective leader or whether a leader is born or made.

Regardless of the position or title you hold, current leadership or rank and file, agency, client or publisher - - developing specific leadership traits will make you better at what you do and will further your career path.

The vast majority of professionals, even in our beloved digital marketing industry, can share a horror story or two about a supervisor or boss who was undeserving of any type of leadership role. Poor leaders dictate rather than delegate, they command rather than collaborate, demoralize rather than inspire -- ultimately driving talent out rather than attracting the best and brightest to coalesce towards the common goal of their organizations. These aren't leaders. These are insecure bullies who use fear rather than respect in an effort to achieve their goals.



A Rose by Any Other Name...
Remember, you're not a leader because of your director or management title. You're not a leader because you think you deserve to be a leader. True leaders exhibit certain traits that motivate and inspire others to follow. A title is assigned. Leadership is earned.

Of course leadership requires vision and intelligence, assertiveness and drive. But in the current environment of continual evolution in the marketing industry, let's delve into some of the unconventional traits of modern-day marketing leadership.

Build Trust and Openness - Regardless of position, look at your staff as coworkers, not subordinates. Today's workforce is motivated when treated with respect, communicated with often and articulately, and given access to information and resources as needed. Don't micromanage  -- it's inefficient and un-motivating. This respect goes in both directions. Don't expect your boss to respect you if you don't provide the same level of trust and openness, or if you're underperforming.

Embrace Change - As clichéd as it sounds, the only constant is change. Take the first opportunity to predict how the changing environment affects you, and adapt accordingly. A senior leader may be focusing on market-level changes, while a media coordinator is faced with an organization's cultural changes. In either case, understanding and adapting to change early will help maintain your sanity, as well as your bottom line. Leaders anticipate the unknown and begin changing course as the market dictates and before it becomes uncomfortable to do so under duress of adverse conditions.

Steward the Mission - We're challenged daily by more forms of distraction than ever before. It takes effort to separate the signal from the noise and understand the difference between being busy and being productive. Maintaining focus, visualizing the path from strategic vision to tactical execution, and helping your teammates stay focused, can be difficult. This is as true for managers "managing down" as it is for staff "managing up." Management is not always open or humble enough to learn from those they manage, but the true leader is always learning and improving.

Champion Collaboration - We can talk about collaboration and integration all day long, but someone has to own the responsibility of fostering collaboration between teams and partners. After all, integration is the actualization of effective collaboration (I've been trying to come up with a way of saying that without rhyming). Facilitating and managing collaboration can be a thankless job. It takes knowledge and experience across disciplines, a strong sense of pride, and an aspiration to succeed regardless of acknowledgment. A tremendous amount of satisfaction can be gained in knowing that you have helped your team reach its goals.

Empower Others - Part of the very definition of leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate the ranks to work together to achieve company goals. Those who empower others are respected and enthusiastically followed. True leadership also includes the willingness to serve and support your teammates, even when they report up to you. Investing the time to recruit and develop top talent in your organization is only the first step to building an effective team.

Be Strong and Be Humble - Be the best at what you do. Let your work, knowledge, experience, vision and accomplishments speak for you. Take risks. But take responsibility for failures and disperse credit to your team for shared successes. Hiding behind scapegoats or hoarding the glory keeps you moving one step forward and two steps back at every turn.

Exude Integrity - Be true to yourself, your team, your company, and those you do business with. People are more willing to go above and beyond for someone whom they respect as a person.

Be Creative & Resourceful - Sometimes we have to make decisions that are outside our comfort zones. This includes areas outside your core expertise, or scenarios where resources are constrained. Today's reality always requires a "get it done" attitude, and sometimes a MacGyver-like approach to creative problem-solving.

The marketing world has become increasingly more complex and is evolving rapidly, which is truly exciting for all of us. We should all aspire to develop our leadership skills, even if the only one following your lead right now is you.

I've covered but a handful of attributes required for the modern day marketing leader, and would love to hear your thoughts on other unconventional characteristics. Share them on the Spin Board!

2 comments about "Modern-Day Marketing Leadership".
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  1. Rick Monihan from None, April 26, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.

    The best rule for being a good leader that I'd ever heard was "think of yourself as their parent - how would you treat them if they were your own family? How would you handle yourself if they were?"

    Great article.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 26, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.

    Your description is almost too good to be true. Rarer in sales, when supervisers who later get jacked up to management, earn less than the best sales staff. They take their positions because no one else wants them. On the other hand, from what I read and pay attention to in regards to many MediaPost authors, you have described them very well.

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