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Five key lessons in leadership for senior marketers

Change Makers

Five key lessons in leadership for senior marketers


In the new world of work, the role of senior marketers has drastically changed. Leadership in the workplace is the ability to influence those around you in a way that maximises their effort towards the achievement of a goal. Find out the leadership qualities needed for the future of marketing.

This article was sponsored by Deakin University to let readers know about its Master in Leadership online course »

Kevin Kruse, author of Great Leaders Have No Rules believes that leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power.

There are many styles and paths to effective leadership that have nothing to do with personal attributes or personality traits. 

Five lessons on leadership

In the recent 2018 State of Marketing Leadership Survey by Target Marketing, 86% of respondents agreed that the roles of marketing leaders have changed significantly, greatly or completely in the past five years. The change has all been in one direction: increased responsibility and workload. This requires senior marketers to have more tools and skills to succeed in demanding roles.  

Explore these five strategies crucial to effective leadership for senior marketers.  

  1. Facilitate trust across your organisation 

Vanessa Hope-Schneider, ex VP of marketing at One Medical, believes conflict situations can be opportunities to build trust with those around you. When she first took on her role as VP, she put a stop to her team’s work-from-home Fridays. It was an unpopular move. But she’d learned other leaders outside their team didn’t know and value the work they did. She explained to her team that she was going to work hard to champion their value and publicise what they do – but they all needed to dig in to show that to others outside their team. Once she had given them the context, it wasn’t seen as being a punitive power play, but an intelligent decision with their best interests at heart. Communication of vision, intent and context was key to building trust.  

  1. Get the best out of people 

Ariana Huffington attributes her success as a leader to the ‘servant leadership model’ – valuing diverse opinions, cultivating trust and promoting humility. Marketing leaders need to self reflect and learn about those around them. Listen to what your team members say they need in order to achieve their goals. Do you know how your UX designer’s role is different from your content designer’s? If not, find out. What you learn could be the linchpin in making your project successful. 

  1. Find the best systems to operate in

What does your campaign or project need? What does your team look like? For an advertising brief with a pitch deadline, where a change in the brief is unlikely, the waterfall method may be your go-to. For a website redesign that requires the alignment of user needs, company goals, frequent testing and iteration, an agile method could be a better choice. Consider the platforms you use to communicate with each other. This could include Slack or Trello, but the usefulness of the platform you are choosing should be key. You could also implement a daily or weekly project huddle. The ways of working have changed, and there are countless tools you can choose to help you facilitate team workflows and manage projects. 

  1. Hone your stakeholder management skills

Communicate constantly, and consult early and often. These tips may seem obvious, but if you’re launching a campaign that is time sensitive, the last thing you need is a bottleneck. A disgruntled stakeholder not included in the early phases can block a marketing campaign from launching on time. Remember that humans are complex, can be unpredictable and can carry their own personal or cultural bias. Understand the cause of stakeholder behaviours so you can assess if there is a better way to work together to maintain a productive relationship. 

  1. Manage your time

As a leader, you need to set an example on how to manage your time. This provides a template for your team to follow. It also creates uniformity in how they communicate and manage their daily tasks. For example, tell your team you only check emails twice a day. They should only private message you if it is a priority issue. Set up regular face-to-face meetings with them. Let them know they need to come prepared with any blockers they’re experiencing. This makes problem-solving faster. Be clear that this is how they should model their time management.   

How does learning create effective, enduring leadership? 

Experience in the field teaches humility and perspective. Learning to accept failure and define success in a project builds resilience and interpersonal skills. These are all facets of good leadership.  

It’s not uncommon for ambitious people to come to a point in their career and feel they have plateaued. When or if this happens, you can consider what you can do to develop your leadership skills. Studying leadership at a postgraduate level is an avenue that can re-energise your career, equipping you with the skills and knowledge needed to adapt to the changing nature of the marketing industry.  

Finding a mentor is another great way to leverage someone else’s experience and insights. Even captains of industry seek mentorship; when Mark Zuckerberg felt like Facebook was faltering, he asked Steve Jobs to be his mentor. 

Marketing is an area that’s been impacted by digital innovation. Marketers who stand out, also invest in continual career innovation and skills development.

For those looking to study leadership, there are many options available. You can complete online workshops to dip your toe in the water or invest your time in a postgraduate qualification, such as the Master of Leadership from Deakin University »

Image credit: Brooke Lark


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