Great leaders don’t always feel obliged to come up with all the ideas, all the time
After all, that’s why there’s a team. Once the strategy is set, a leader’s core focus is to build, nurture, develop and coach teams, creating an environment with few barriers to deliver a collective sense of achievement and success.
Conversely, research indicates that the weakest leaders include those whose sole motivation is their own destiny and success, thinly disguised under a veil of collective collaboration. They are commonly seen recounting their own past individual successes, while avidly spotting flaws in others.
The brutal reality is that teams are amazingly capable of spotting the latter, even if the leaders themselves are blindingly oblivious.
There is no ‘silver bullet’ to defining leadership success
Leadership is a constantly improving evolution and needs to adjust depending on numerous factors, such as circumstance, business culture, team dynamics and business challenges.
The important lesson is that you cannot have a fixed approach. Things change, as people are individuals and are unique, so the way you lead them may also have to shift and adapt to suit.
I was once also fortunate to have sat with visiting professors from Harvard, who beautifully stripped down the essentials of leadership. Within their sessions, there were a few statements that really resonated.
1) Ninety per cent of what we call "management" actually consists of somehow making it difficult for people to get things done.
2) A leader’s responsibility is to "protect" the individual personalities (be that creative, innovative, entrepreneurial) and not suppress them to "fit" into a common corporate mould.
3) Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence – and making it last in your absence.
4) Leaders need people around them to act as "mirrors" – to show them their blind spots. If you make everyone in your image, then a group of lemmings might be the outcome.
My approach to marketing
On a factory production line, if you were to over-engineer or install multilayered complex processes, the impact is clear (such as inflated production costs, late deliveries, inefficiencies). The same could be said of marketing, where there may be those who believe on occasion that it risks being too complicated, largely because of factors inside the organisation.
At the core of marketing is that it’s "external" – customer-facing activity across all touchpoints. If the effort is disproportionately focused on internal process management, complex steps or large committees to achieve agreement or buy-in, the recipe for success is already at risk.
The analogy of a stallion ending up as a camel all because of committee consensus comes to mind.
Where the best ideas come from
I read somewhere that to be best-in-class at something, you also have to accept that you will be crap at something else. It’s an intoxicating thought. I guess you wouldn’t expect Michelangelo to also have been a great chef or Usain Bolt to win marathons too.
Creatively, the best ideas I have seen have had a clear objective and target, and a clear line of responsibility for who delivers, with only the right level of steps/process or internally driven process. Consumers won’t take into account how many meetings there have been, how big the PowerPoint decks are or the hurdles the teams endured, only if they connect with the content and care enough to react and respond.
The best ideas are usually very single-minded, coherent and compelling, and avoid deviation or complication brought about by well-meaning but misguided inputs.
The marketing challenge
What we do is subjective and, because it’s not always 100% measurable in real time, other areas of a business might push the notion that marketing is a questionable expense rather than a critical investment. Marketers have to focus not only on the short-term sales objectives but on protecting the long-term brand value and equity.
Marketers who have experience of working in, or truly understand, other business areas and their pressures will be better-placed to know how to communicate internally, empathise and get support, allowing them to focus on the most important objective – that of the consumer relationship.
Martin Moll is general manager, marketing communications, Europe, at Nissan. He previously worked at Honda in roles including European marketing director.