12 Powers: How Marketing Leaders Can Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value


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According to The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, a new book by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise, marketers are doing just fine “doing” marketing. What they need to do is update their leadership abilities to “mobilize” their bosses, colleagues, team, and self. That simple formula is broken down into 12 traits that winners exhibit, based on extensive research.

Here are five questions I asked co-author Thomas Barta about this new book. Enjoy!

1. Why did you write this book?

That’s simple: we need more marketers to succeed as leaders. Here’s the issue: too many marketers today work hard, but struggle to cut through inside their own companies. Over half of all marketers aren’t happy with their careers. And CMO is still the best job if you want to get fired one day. We’ve written The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader to help more marketers succeed.

There’s a personal motivation too. When I was a marketer myself, I loved my job. Yet, even in a consumer-facing company I thought marketing could have more influence. That’s why I joined McKinsey, where I became a partner, to teach CEOs the importance of marketing. I quickly learned: most CEOs understand marketing pretty well. But marketers weren’t always as effective as other leaders in connecting with CEOs. As a dean of McKinsey’s internal leadership program, I was teaching McKinsey leaders create impact—without having reporting lines. That’s when the loop started to close. If we can teach more marketers what we teach McKinsey leaders (influencing without authority), everybody will be better off.

2. What research was done to find the 12 behaviors that drive marketer’s business and career success?

The book is based on the largest study ever undertaken into marketing leadership. We have analyzed detailed original data on over 1,200 marketing leaders and more than 68,000 existing 360-degree assessments of both marketing and non-marketing business leaders. This way we could take a real 360-degree look on how CMOs lead. The research revealed 12 essential traits that can make or break marketers’ business impact and career success. In fact, we’ve actually just put a free test online where marketers can test their leadership profile.

3. What is the difference between leading and managing marketing?

Up until now, most marketers have been putting all their eggs in the marketing skills basket. That is, knowing how to do things like position the brand and create promotions which customers love. And we salute them for being expert in those things. They’ve gotten people far. But they’re not enough. Alongside their expertise in marketing skills, marketers must also become experts in marketing leadership. It’s a very different basket.

What’s in it? We demonstrate in The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader that leading marketing isn’t just about serving the customer. It’s also about increasing and using your influence inside of the organization. It’s about mobilizing your boss, colleagues, your team, and yourself to maximize the overlap between customers’ needs and the company’s needs.

PS: The study has uncovered a number of very surprising facts about marketing leadership. Curious? Here’s a Q&A. How many do you get right?

4. How does “customer focus” factor in the success of marketers?

Customer focus is the cornerstone of success for every company. Full stop. There’s nothing more important than really understanding customers—and serving their needs (profitably) better than competitors do. Marketers have to be the lynchpin of a company’s customer focus! But we’ve also proven: customer focus alone isn’t enough. Marketers must also develop the leadership skills to make customer focus actually happen insider their own companies.

5. Can you give an example of a marketing leader that has done a great job “mobilizing” colleagues?

When CMO Ed Smith got the job to introduce an online pay wall for Australia’s most important business magazine, most people at the paper were up in arms, fearing to lose readers and impact. But Ed rose to the challenge, shared his vision to save quality journalism, listened to people’s concerns, problem-solved many issues, and ultimately created a movement inside the company for the pay wall project. Did he succeed? Absolutely! Not only did the pay wall work and helped created the urgently needed revenue. It also serves as role model for many other papers.

There are great marketing leaders in many companies. We just need more of them—and put leadership much higher on every marketer’s agenda.

About the Author

thomas barta

Thomas Barta is an internationally recognized thought leader on marketing leadership. As a McKinsey Partner with a senior marketing background, he helped shape the strategy and define the DNA behind many Fortune 500 brands. Barta has consulted and marketed for over 20 years, in 14 industries, in 45 countries. Each year, he gives more than 40 keynotes and seminars for companies, industry associations, and universities. His clients include many of the world’s most prominent companies. As a dean of McKinsey’s highest-rated internal program, he trained over a thousand McKinsey leaders on driving change without authority. Barta is the leadership Dean of the global CMO Fellowship Program, a joint venture between McKinsey and the Marketing Academy. He has written for the Huffington Post, McKinsey Quarterly, and is a columnist for cmo.com, the No. 1 online magazine for marketing leaders.


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