Secret Marketer: A great leader will respect and listen to the experts around them

Leadership isn’t just about being confident in your own decisions, but also about trusting your colleagues and allowing them to do the jobs they specialise in.

I read an interesting article about Harriet Green – she of Thomas Cook fame (or should that now be infamy?) – where she said that the art of a good leader is to surround yourself with people better than you.

I broadly agree with that but with one caveat – you have to trust, respect and allow them to operate. Merely having a bunch of loyal eunuchs around you kind of defeats the object.

This week in ‘Secret Marketer Towers’, I have faced a couple  of frustrations. Firstly, my chairman asked me for my view on  a reputational matter and whether our brand should wade
into a political debate, which had some bearing on our business. After a carefully researched and analysed response, I laid before him the three options (yes now, yes later, and no), and I felt somewhat smug with my carefully considered and thoroughly robust recommendation.

I was therefore aghast when he rejected it, pointing to one of  the counter options – completely disregarding the reasons why  I had argued it was not a goer. Being a loyal subject, I didn’t throw my toys out of the pram, but went away and cited half-a-dozen reference sources explaining why his option was flawed, all of  which he subsequently rejected, stating that the authors were themselves biased and compromised. I quickly realised he had  made his decision and no amount of logic or evidence was going to sway him.

The second frustration involved an idea proposed by an agency that we do not work with but which had sent a marketing proposal cold to my CEO, perhaps knowing (or maybe just luckily guessing) that she had a penchant for this particular type of idea.

When she showed it to me with much excitement in her voice, she was stunned when I said I had rejected it six months earlier because it was completely wrong for our brand, it did not address any of the issues we had agreed were necessary from our marketing plan this year and it was too expensive.

As you can probably guess, we’re running with said marketing idea at the same time as I’m desperately seeking a way to make the chairman feel his reputational approach is the right one. At the same time I’m trying to retain some semblance of common sense and authority – reassuring myself that they all value the opinion of their marketing expert. Yet I can’t help wondering whether Harriet Green will have a job going when she next resurfaces. 

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