How to Lead Your Marketing Organization through Uncharted Waters

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 1:20 PM
The advertisement above is Sir Ernest Shackleton's recruitment notice for his 1915 Antarctic expedition.  His entire crew of 27 men did return.  But their adventure is one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration.  Shackleton, his ship Endurance crushed by ice in Antarctic’s Weddell Sea, led his crew to safety through a series of impossible journeys over land and sea.  What began as a journey of exploration became a 20-month battle to stay alive, demanding ingenuity, courage, and leadership.  I’m guessing the 5,000 applicants who were rejected were glad they didn’t get the job.
Years ago I used to welcome my new marketing classes with this recruitment notice.  It was an attention grabber and a thought provoking way to get the class started. Marketing as a business discipline requires endurance; it’s also a functional area that often faces hazardous conditions in relation to various business environments.  In years past you could count on at least one speaker in all marketing related conferences to quote the statistics from the most recent Spencer Stuart CMO survey.  The average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer is now 45 months.  Compared to previous years the CMO’s tenure is now solidly on the rise:
·45.0 months - 2013
·45.0 months - 2012
·43.0 months - 2011
·42.0 months - 2010
·34.7 months - 2009
·28.4 months - 2008
·26.8 months - 2007
·23.2 months - 2006
·23.5 months - 2005
·23.6 months - 2004
Does increasing tenure suggest that the danger of leading a marketing organization is fading?  Probably not, changing market conditions will continue to throw many marketing leaders into uncharted waters.  Are you prepared to lead amid uncertainty and doubt?  Sir Ernst Shackleton distinguished himself as a hero, not only among the masses, but also among the officers, scientists and crew members on his expedition.  How did he do it?
1. Trust: While Shackleton was called “The Boss” by his men, he did not differentiate himself from them.  When the crew had to move off the ship and camp on the ice Shackleton ensured that neither he nor his officers received preferential treatment.  Trust is the foundation of leadership and Shackleton’s crew trusted him during their journey because of his consistent and fair management and communication style.
2. Servant Leadership: In order to help his crew get over the trauma of abandoning the Endurance, Shackleton literally served his men: “Rising early in the morning, he made hot milk and hand-delivered it to every tent in the camp.”  Unlike top-down leadership approaches, servant leadership emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power.  Servant leadership is designed to help enhance the growth of individuals in the organization, and increase teamwork and personal involvement.  Shackleton’s servant leadership style helped pull his crew together and secure their rescue.
3. Vision: After selecting five of the toughest and best crew members, Shackleton announced that this select group would seek help by sailing a lifeboat over 800 miles across the most dangerous ocean on the planet in order to reach a whaling station on South Georgia.  The plan worked and the rest of the expedition party was eventually rescued.  True vision goes beyond what one individual can accomplish.  It pulls the entire team forward.

Of course there are additional factors that could be added to the list above; but amid your current challenges what leadership characteristics are you counting on to help position your team for “honor and recognition?”

Categories: Leadership, Strategy

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