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Why CMO Don’t Want to be the CEO

By Jennifer Polk | September 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

MarketingBrandingMarketing Organization and OperationsMarketing Strategy and Innovation

“If everything is important, then nothing is.”

             Patrick Lencioni

The scope of nearly every role, not just marketing, is expanding in all different directions. Even the janitor is tasked with more than sweeping up. They’re also expected to recommend more effective and less expensive cleaning products. They’re in the cost optimization business. They need be friendly toward employees and visitors. They’re also in the customer care business. Similarly…

CMO today risk becoming the CEO—Chief Everything Officer.

Be the Chief Digital Officer. Think big. Cast a vision and define marketing strategy. Lead digital transformation and innovation.

Be the Chief Branding Officer. Manage the brand, marketing organization and day-to-day operations of the marketing function.

Be the Chief Growth Officer. Drive top and bottom line growth. Deliver leads, acquire customers, increase revenue and optimize costs.  

Be the Chief Customer Officer. Have a customer-first mindset and be a change agent who instills this approach across the enterprise.  

I’m exhausted from typing this. To survive and thrive in today’s business environment, CMOs and marketing leaders should define or redefine their own roles, rather than letting someone else define it for them. This doesn’t mean CMO should shirk new responsibilities. They should, however, shape their role and responsibilities by doing two things.

  1. Recognize the type of leader the company needs to achieve its mission critical priorities.
  2. Determine the type of leader you are today and where you need to lean-in for tomorrow.

Recognize Leadership Imperatives

Take stock of what your organization needs to succeed in the years ahead. Consider its mission critical priorities and long-term objectives, but don’t stop there. What are the untapped opportunities? Where does the company need to win in order to double market share or dramatically expand business scope in the next decade? What are the points of vulnerability? Where does the company need to predict and pivot with perfect timing to avoid massive disruption or slow death?

[re]Define Your Brand of Leadership

Consider what you can uniquely deliver, exceptionally well. A recent HBR article predicted four futures for CMOs—up, over, down or out. The future is here. It’s happening. But, for many CMOs, it’s happening to them and they’re missing the opportunity to determine what their future in the organization looks like. When it gets decided for them, the role of the CMO resembles the CEO–Chief Everything Officer.

This requires choice. Choose the type of leader you will be based on what is needed in the current environment and what positions you for longevity, either in your current organization or in a different company. Delegate responsibilities that distract from that vision and shed or deprioritize organizational capabilities that are misaligned to that vision. You can’t do everything exceptionally well. Success depends on making the right choices for yourself and your marketing team.

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