5 Leadership Traits Of Successful APAC Marketers

Marketing in APAC, a melting pot of different cultures, economic pressures, and consumer expectations, requires its own mix of must-have leadership qualities.

5 Leadership Traits Of Successful APAC Marketers

As the media and marketing landscape continues to shift, CMOs are expected to be more than design-focused, data-driven, omnichannelled gurus. They’re expected to lead their teams into the future.

So what does it take to be an effective marketing leader in APAC, a melting pot of different cultures, economic pressures, and consumer expectations? Following are five leadership qualities successful CMOs in APAC possess.

1. State a vision and deliver it: According to Lindy Chen, founder and managing director of ChinaDirect Sourcing Services, the most important characteristic of effective marketing leaders is their personal integrity. “You say what you are going to do and deliver,” Chen said.

She also said she believes it’s critical that leaders articulate their expectations and vision. “No matter how strong the leader, without a vision people don’t know what to aim for,” she said.

Marketing leaders need to set out what they expect–two, five, even 10 years hence–so that the team knows where it’s headed and feels empowered to help the organisation get there.

2. Empower your people: “Leaders create other leaders; managers create followers,” said leadership coach Oscar Trimboli, who has been working in the APAC region for the past 15 years. “Empowerment is essential. Create trust, be transparent, talk about what you are good at, talk about what you are not good at.” This delivers a tacit permission to team members to plug any gaps, he added.

Doing so is particularly important in a region as diverse as APAC. “Leaders on the ground understand the landscape from their own team and from the data,” Trimboli said. Once empowered, they can work towards the vision set from the top.

ChinaDirect’s Chen agreed that transparency is essential for teams to understand the strategic vision, what it will take to get there, and feel empowered to act.

3. Stay one step ahead: Transitioning from command-and-control management to a looser leadership style can be a little scary for CMOs. From time to time, they will need to adjust their vision. This doesn’t mean their earlier vision was wrong, but that the market has changed and the vision needs to change with it–quickly.

Lorain Wong comes from Taiwan, is based in Hong Kong, and travels the world as global CMO of Reliance Communications and Global Cloud Xchange. Transformation and change are her constant companions.

“With the speed at which we need to make things happen, it is more mission-critical than ever to lead by example,” Wong said. “[CMOs need] to be engaged with what needs to be done through mentoring, rather than micromanaging; to encourage the team; to be there to guide and support; to build up a solid team with mission-critical skills; and to empower each member to take accountability for seeing projects through. It’s about collaboration as well as respect for individuals.”

CMOs must try to stay a step ahead of key economic drivers within target markets to spot potential opportunities, she added. “We need to understand the mission and vision of our business–the direction in which our CEO is navigating us for new growth opportunities–and build programs and messages that align with taking the business forward,” she said. “We must be at the helm of seeing, communicating and building upon the vision of the company.”

4. Think jazz, not classical: Leadership coach Trimboli pointed to writer and futurist Alvin Toffler, who said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

“Unlike classical music, which is defined by a score, fixed positions, instruments, and rigorous, daily rehearsal, the marketing leaders of the future sound more like jazz,” Trimboli said. “The effective leaders of today and tomorrow can co-create, adapt, and use the instruments in the moment.”

That means the best CMOs need to develop three key abilities, according to Reliance’s Wong. They are the ability to mentor (guide and empower, rather than micromanage your team); inspire (build an environment where the team feels free be creative); and collaborate**(**within the marketing team and other functional units).

5. Invest in your role: Despite the rich prizes of effective leadership, CMOs don’t invest in developing their leadership and personal brand to the extent they should, Trimboli said. “CMOs are all about strong, vibrant, and authentic brands–but they don’t invest that time in themselves,” he lamented.

They should because the stakes are high. As Chen noted: “Business is a reflection of the leader. If the business is lousy, it’s because the leader is lousy.”

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