Leadership versus Management

I have recently read a number of blogs that discuss the differences between leadership and management and the importance of getting it right. I believe this topic is now top of mind as recognition is growing that people and thereby talent is the fulcrum on which any successful company needs to establish itself.

A very smart colleague once said to me that there are three competencies that you need in any successful organisation and each one is intrinsically linked.

The first is functional competence; the ability, talent and skills to conduct tasks, to execute processes, to undertake agreed actions and to deliver on the agreed plans of the organisation. Clearly you need people who are knowledgeable on a subject area, are confident enough to make decisions and can deliver on the outcomes that add value to a business.

The second area is managerial competence; the role of management is to enable the functional teams to perform to the best of their ability. It is about unlocking their potential and enabling them to deliver exceptional work. This includes:

  • Structured planning.
  • Resource allocation.
  • Clear goal setting.
  • Removing challenges and barriers.
  • Developing skills.
  • Aligning expertise to areas of need.
  • Ensuring the talent available fits the needs of the business.

It is also about how to promote and achieve collaboration. Two minds are always better than one and it is therefore essential that management enable collaboration at every opportunity.

The final area of competence is leadership; leadership is about creating the right conditions for the company to succeed. My personal view is that this all starts with a brand vision. A great brand vision can positively impact a company in two ways:

  • It provides clarity of purpose and a very well defined journey as to how success will be achieved.
  • It creates the right environment by establishing a set of principles and cultural values that motivate, inspire and impassion everyone to go the extra mile and deliver the best possible work for the organisation.

I am a great fan of Jim Collins and I believe his description of a level 5 leader in “Good to Great” hits this nail on the head when he said “A Level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” It is the joining together of the right culture with clarity of purpose that defines great leadership.


Interestingly if you follow this logic, leaders need to create a vision and culture that supports managers who then need to use this to unlock the potential of all employees. It is in effect an upside down organisation chart. So in this type of organisation, here is a list of behaviors I would hope to see:

  • A vision and clarity of purpose brought to life through great storytelling.
  • Inertia created through continuous engagement & communication.
  • Personal conviction built through authenticity, trust and direct face-to-face engagement.
  • Leadership providing direction rather than directives.
  • An empathetic working environment that builds connectivity and collaboration.
  • Promotion of diversity of thought as this enhances innovation, sharing and transparency.
  • Humility winning over hubris.
  • Empowered people who are confident to break new ground.
  • A caring culture as this deepens relationships and enables personal goals to be connected to company objectives.
  • Supportive management as this enhances productivity.
  • A fun environment as this is the best way to motivate the delivery of outstanding work.

What would be on your list?


Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer

Many companies are facing significant challenges due to the rise of the connected consumer. As the needs and aspirations of the consumer have increased so has the need for organizations to respond to these increased demands and to transform themselves.

There are numerous articles and books on this topic and I have consolidated the leading thinking in this area into my top 10 list. This list reflects the key pillars that I believe are fundamental for how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Here are the first five. I will share the remaining five in a follow-up post.

Leadership is about defining the long-term direction of the company and providing a working environment that enables and empowers the organization to successfully achieve their goals. Key qualities include; a very clear definition of the long-term goals of the organization and the journey it will take to get there, consistency in how this is expressed and a very transparent and pragmatic approach to how company progress is shared both internally as well as externally.
Marketing considerations; employ a journalist who can help craft the story, position your vision as a journey and share progress through employee and client stories that bring it to life.

An organization’s social purpose is becoming increasingly influential and needs to be part of the overall brand promise. This is important both internally as well as externally and will become a growing part of a customer’s decision process in the future.
Marketing considerations; ensure brand / company values reflect a social purpose, develop a specific social program by which all employees can participate and implement initiatives that enable the social purpose to be embedded in day to day working,

A brand promise is no longer enough to convince an audience of the values and merits of an organization’s product or service offering. Consumers are now relying very heavily on the experience of other users to determine the viability of a brand. A wealth of information is available as individuals share their experiences through social and e-commerce channels. Brand reputation is now the cornerstone for future commercial success and every organization needs to recognize that how it acts is now more important than what it says.
Marketing considerations: start with employees and build a culture that can successfully deliver the brand proposition by focusing on the 4 S’s of play to people strengths, keep it simple, give people space to express themselves and provide a support system.

Consumer understanding is imperative for an organization to be able to deliver an experience that meets the needs and expectations of each and every customer at every touch point. This is now the basis for securing customer satisfaction and for building long-term customer loyalty.
Marketing considerations: always start with data, establish a marketing sciences team, ensure that every decision is informed by insights and make reporting very easy to consume and act on at all levels in an organization.

It is all about the customer and the experiences that they take away after every interaction or touch point with your company or brand. This is where the rubber hits the road. Think customer, think experience and then work backwards from there.
Marketing considerations; employ UX designers in marketing, map-out the customer journeys, put yourself in the shoes of the customer and experience what they experience and always focus on delivering the right outcome rather than on the activity or process that underpins it.


These five pillars are focusing on the business transformation strategy, which are all about defining the destination. Next week we will focus on the actual journey.

CMO leadership: how to succeed in the modern era

I am deeply honored and delighted to be nominated by the CMO Club for its annual CMO President’s Circle Award.  This award recognizes CMOs who have demonstrated success in leading teams, leadership in marketing innovation, and leading beyond just the marketing department.

Usually I am embarrassed by recognition such as this but it sparked me into thinking about what are the key leadership characteristics that would help make a CMO successful in today’s world.

When I think about leadership I always refer back to Jim Collins and his excellent book “Good to Great”.

In this book he talks about Level 5 leadership. Jim defines a Level 5 leader as “Building enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”. In effect it is the ability to create and establish absolute clarity of purpose whilst ensuring that success is only seen through the action of others. To achieve this it means your primary focus can only be on two areas; the people you work with and the ability to build market understanding.

So here are some proposals as to how you can be an effective leader in these two areas. It is just a selection but hopefully it will be useful:

People and teamwork

  • Start with culture and establish a function that is built on respect, transparency, collaboration, shared success and fun.
  • Great culture will attract great people. Jim Collins once said; “if I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could”.
  • Get to know the skills and competencies of your team members and focus their efforts on areas where they excel.
  • Always recognize, support and motivate your team members by focusing on the positives, whether it is success or opportunities to improve. This will ensure your team contributes more so imagine everyone gives a further 10%, you have just increased your FTEs by 5 people for a team of 50.
  • Allow people to be personally accountable and give everyone the chance to show what they can deliver.
  • Set goals on outcomes and not activities, this way you allow freedom to experiment and innovate.

Data, knowledge, wisdom and foresight

  • Always start with data.
  • Try and ensure that every decision made has considered all available insights.
  • Establish a marketing sciences team and empower them to always provide recommendations with any analysis.
  • Create a structured, uniformed segmented view of the market so everyone is looking at the market in the same way.
  • Set targets based on market / customer segments so you can better gauge progress at a micro level.
  • Make sure objectives are based on business outcomes and not just on specific activities as these end up being proxies.
  • Apply the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) so you report performance across all stages of the customer lifecycle in a joined up fashion. There is no benefit in doing 4 out of 5 things well if that one element that you don’t do well breaks the chain.

To best summarize this it brings me to the magic of Arthur C. Clarke who once said; “The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.”

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So, in signing off, if you get the right people onboard, establish a culture in which they can express themselves and then empower them with the best possible insights, you will have gone a long way to becoming a successful marketing leader.