The Most Important CMO Trait
More than a decade ago, when I was writing an obituary about a C-suite marketer from a huge brand for a major daily newspaper in New York, I was on the phone with the man’s successor. I asked him what he learned from his predecessor. The new CMO said the most important lesson from his iron-fisted predecessor was how not to manage a team.
Fast-forward to Aug. 9, 2017, and humanity and empathy are indeed codified as the most important traits in a great CMO, according to Marketing Week’s new study on the “Anatomy of a Leader.”
For those worried about the legacy of the late New York CMO, his successor chose a different — more empathetic — quote for the obituary.
“Human, empathetic, rational, emotional, brave and agile — just a snapshot of the ‘essential’ attributes a modern marketing leader must possess,” Charlotte Rogers writes in the lead to her synopsis of the research on Aug. 9.
CMOs are returning to being big picture-thinkers, assembling a team of marketers who can handle the more metrics-driven functions of the profession, she writes.
“Modern marketing leaders are focusing on driving strategy and using their skills to champion the next wave of talent,” Rogers says.
Marketing Week split its CMO research into two categories — responsibilities of the job, then attributes of the leader. The attribute of being a “strategic thinker” came out far ahead, at 86 percent, vs. the top responsibility. About 74 percent of the 600 surveyed marketers named sales and commercial awareness as the CMO’s top responsibility.
In other words as marketers climb the career ladder, this study shows their jobs now less function-driven.
Rogers quotes Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson’s opinion about the shift:
“In recent years, marketing has become more and more tactical and we have lost the art of developing clear strategic direction first. We like to debate the knobs and dials of communication, but do not have a clear strategy for our brands first.”
Among the top findings in the CMO research, summarized by Rogers, are:
- Adaptability (87 percent) is the attribute growing most in importance for marketing leaders, with vision (81 percent) and technical proficiency (77 percent) also being paramount.
- Looking ahead, problem solving (77 percent), the ability to listen (74 percent), resilience (74 percent), people management (67 percent) and risk-taking (67 percent) are key attributes that marketers say are becoming the DNA of a marketing leader.
- In addition to strategic thinking, attributes CMOs should have are relationship building skills (61 percent), followed by people management (60 percent), vision (59 percent) and problem solving (57 percent).
Chris Lyons — President/CRO of Target Marketing Group, publishers of Target Marketing, Total Retail and NonProfitPRO at NAPCO Media — shares his thoughts on the reality the research reflects.
“The fact is that technology and big data are the driving factors in the market today, and are the required skillset for this crop of execs,” he says. “My contention is that once these baseline skills are acquired and part of the basic skillset of marketers for the future there will be a return to great content (copy/offers/etc.) driven by the right message on the right platform at the right time (JIT). Some of that will come from people, but most of it will come from a programmatic approach based on personal and persona-based copy, using AI.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: 5 Steps to Success for Today’s CMOs