Are you a Jobs or a Wozniak?

Thomas Barta TryThisBlog
By Thomas Barta
Last updated: January 08, 2013

Apples former boss Steve Jobs still gets many more Google hits than Steve Wozniak, his former partner and ingenious developer of the legendary Apple I computer of 1976. Why? Because expertise is not enough to inspire people and excite markets. Jobs succeeded in taking the ideas of companions like Wozniak and giving them a competitive edge in such a way to revolutionize markets (from my column).

Jobs lives on as a role model for many marketers. But when CEOs were asked to state how they rate their marketing leaders in my recent global study, many didn’t describe a “Jobs” but a “Wozniak”–people who are experts at finding their way through the jungle of media, campaigns, and market segments. This obsession with details often causes directors a mixture of confusion and frustration.

Of course: the world needs people like Wozniak (he contributed substantially to Apple’s success). The question is just: do you want to shape the agenda – like Jobs did – or only contribute to it?

There’s no doubt a company can survive the digital revolution intact through obsessive focus on detail. At the same time, however, there is a need for marketing leaders to see the big picture and develop strong leadership skills. So how can marketing experts gain more influence? This much is clear: Superior marketing expertise is not enough in itself.

Together with experts at the INSEAD Business School I have been researching success factors for marketing leaders since 2011–possibly the biggest worldwide study of its type to date. In spite of all of the differences, a surprisingly clear picture emerges: Outstanding marketers are highly adept in their field. They work toward results and motivate others to achieve great things. Anyone with these skills can do a good job, but more is needed to be the best. In addition to expertise (“do”), influential CMOs also have two other qualities: an ambitious goal (“dream”) and the courage to gain power to achieve it (“dare”).

Dream: “I Want To Get There”
Simon Kang is one of Asia’s most successful marketing leaders. When he took charge of LG Appliances in the U.S. in the late 1990s, few people would have put money on his rise to success. “Lucky Goldstar,” the brand name at the time, was launched in the U.S. with a small number of products, a shoestring budget, and no established distribution chain. But Kang had a dream to see the LG neon sign in Times Square, right in the middle of the world’s biggest brands. It was an ambitious target, but, for Kang, this dream was a powerful source of creative product ideas (colored fridges) and guerrilla marketing campaigns. Most of all, it carried him through numerous meetings where he convinced his team, the factories, and the LG board of his vision. LG is now one of the leading household appliance brands in the U.S. And what about the neon sign in Times Square? Go take a look!

Successful CMOs set themselves ambitious goals and inspire others to achieve them. They tell a story, the story of a better future, of more success and greater prestige. If it comes down to it, they will even put their jobs on the line for this vision. Follow in the footsteps of these visionaries and ask yourself three questions:

1. What do I want to achieve–in the market, for my company, and for myself? And if I left the company today, what would the press release say about my departure? Think big. Only when you are inspired by your dream will you also be able to inspire others. Family, friends, and coaches can help you find and sharpen your vision.

2. How do I inspire others with my vision? Just think about it. The best stories are short and positive. Concentrate on the central message of your story, and give others free rein to spread your message.

3. How do I create points of contact? Prepare yourself for the long haul. Great success is rarely achieved overnight. And even the best message needs to be consistently repeated. Don’t be afraid of telling your story often enough.

Dare: “I Am Free To Do As I Please”
Jobs was passionate and obsessed with details, but most of all he sought power and held onto it. His courage inspired investors, and his willingness to face conflict head-on ensured that only the best ideas reached the market. Aware of his own shortcomings, he surrounded himself with only the best–from engineers to creative minds. For example, when it came to the Next logo, he paid $100,000 to get a top designer. When you are successful, it no longer bothers anyone if the budget overruns slightly. Managers gain more power through visible, top-class performance.

Many marketing managers complain: “If only I had more influence, I could really make a difference!” But they fail to recognize that, in most companies, influence is not awarded according to position, but is acquired through courage. In confidential interviews, many CEOs say that “marketing is much too quiet.” Be like Jobs and use the three sources of power in marketing:

1. Lay your cards on the table. Many marketing managers fail because of their need for harmony. But managers are not paid to keep everyone happy. Lay your cards on the table when your convictions are at stake. Show you have the courage to face conflict head-on. The best people have minds of their own. The CMO of one big automotive manufacturer puts it this way: “If they don’t like my vision, let them fire me.”

2. Be relevant. Not many CEOs find details about the gross reach of a campaign exciting, but if you tell them how you can increase profit, now that’s exciting. It is astonishing how few marketing managers are aware of their CEOs’ priorities. Get the attention of decision-makers by showing how your work adds value to the company.

3. Work with the best. Are you really surrounding yourself with the best team and the best service providers? If not, start today. It’s tough because the best don’t always do what you want. But the best drive you forward.

A top job will not just fall into your lap, particularly in marketing where success is often more difficult to measure and results often depend on the work of others. If you want to get to the very top, then you need constant training–just like in any top sport. Marketing managers are often surprised when they hear that many CEOs and CFOs are helped by professional coaches. Marketing also needs more characters at the top because this is where decisions are made. Expertise is important, but an ambitious goal (“dream”) and the courage to gain power to achieve it (“dare”) make experts into real leaders (“do”).

Wozniak or Jobs? The choice is yours.