June 6, 2014

Why do 43% of CMOs not believe leadership is important for Business Transformation?

Over 45% of Nordic managers think that leadership is an essential barrier as well as a success factor for technology based business transformation, according to our “Future of Business Transformation” study. One group of executives that clearly stood out from our findings were the CMOs with a share of 57%. Apparently, there are other CMOs beside myself who are very keen on great leadership and its role in making companies flourish.

Who's your boss?

I’ve read that the average career expectancy of a CMO is 28 months. Depending on your perspective, this could be either good or bad if you are a CMO (or aspiring to become one). For me personally, this is an intriguing thought as I have been in my current CMO role for about seven months. So, am I a person who wants to increase the average career life expectancy? Do I even have anything to say about it myself, or am I holding a role that is at the mercy of someone else?

I was talking to my son who is eight and he started asking the “Who is your boss?” question. I don’t know if you have had this experience, but when a child is not satisfied, they keep asking. So, the conclusion was that everyone has a boss. I sure do, and I know that my CEO answers to the Board of Directors. And the BoD answers to the shareholders. And on it goes. Everyone has a boss.

Since there’s a boss for everyone, it’s essential to have great leadership and culture for the business to get the intended results. Since we’ve done some research on business transformation, let’s now focus on it and its relationship to different types of leadership. In our study, we listed different ways leadership can either destroy or promote transformation.

Ways that leadership can keep transformation from happening are

  • Not rewarding employees
  • Concealed information
  • Focusing on the wrong things
  • Management not leading by example

Ways in which quality leadership can nurture transformation are

  • Confident leaders promoting a culture of openness
  • Embrace change instead of clinging to old habits
  • Accept ideas and information as the new natural resource
  • See development as important as the production process of the company

Why do CMOs only survive for 28 months?

In an earlier blog post, Taneli Tikka wrote about the culture of openness, learning, and leadership. He stated that managers are responsible for fairly rewarding their employees; this means allocating resources correctly and helping them focus on the right things. Tikka discussed leadership gurus, such as Jim Collins, who talks about “Level 5” leaders whose personal humility blends with intense professional will.

So, why do CMOs stay in their role for only a little over two years? One conclusion of why CMOs stay so short in companies seemed to be that the role is one that sits in between the CEO (vision and growth) and the CFO (keeping costs down) and there is bound to be some (hopefully positive) tension between the two. I personally believe that there is some truth to this statement but it is maybe also a bit simplified. Success in an organization is most likely the result of a couple of attributes of which leadership is a key one. We are always talking about leading people, since I have still to meet a “role” that is not a person. So success has a lot to do with company culture and your own ability to get things done in that environment. Without too many clichés, I firmly believe that I am responsible for my own success or failure. Whether I get (or choose) to stay longer than the 28 month average depends on  my ability to be a leader in the business transformation journey associated with my company.  Let’s make a date to see each other on this blog in March 2016 and I will let you know how it went! Or if there is no post, then you also know how it went.

You can download a copy our Future of Business Transformation study here or view a presentation of it on SlideShare.

Mattias is CMO at Tieto. You can read more about him here and follow him on Twitter & LinkedIn.

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