MacLeod-Smith was previously the commercial director for the Affluent group, which was re-christened as the Luxury Group earlier this year.
Her appointment follows a two-month hunt for a successor to Liz Kershaw after it was announced that the former publishing director of Affluent would not be returning to the role when her maternity leave ended in May.
Kershaw instead took up a newly created role as the executive group publishing director for Good Housekeeping and Country Living, which was hived off from its original position within the Luxury Group to remain with her.
Chris Hughes, the publishing director for Good Housekeeping, originally its own autonomous group, retained his position, reporting to Kershaw.
"I am delighted that we have been able to appoint Tess as publishing director, NatMags' managing director, Duncan Edwards, said. "Tess has considerable experience of Harpers & Queen and Esquire and I am confident that she will enhance these strong brands even further."
The Luxury Group publishing director role was not passed to MacLeod-Smith during Kershaw's absence, when NatMags' president and former managing director, Terry Mansfield, opted to take on the role himself, 20 years after he last published Harpers & Queen.
MacLeod-Smith takes up her new role, with a portfolio reduced to Harpers & Queen and Esquire, with immediate effect.
"I'm thrilled to take on this role at such an exciting and pivotal time for both Harpers & Queen and Esquire, she said.
There was positive news for Esquire in the July to December ABC results, with the magazine posting a 1.2 per cent year-on-year increase and remaining steady period on period. However, Harpers & Queen saw its figure drop 1.7 per cent year on year to 86,039, narrowing its lead over Conde Nast's Tatler.