Four actions marketers should take to be a better leader

While leaders can take a number of different paths to get the most from their team, there are several steps every marketer should consider to improve communication and deliver the best results.


While there are many styles of leadership there are some universal skills and ways of working that all marketers should consider.

Matt Barker, coaching and operations director at K2, who will be speaking at Marketing Week Live next month, outlines four ways marketers can improve their leadership, to get more from their team in the near term and set the business up for future growth.


Be crystal clear on goals

Leaders are often guilty of not spending enough time setting up projects  and outlining the key objectives.

“They go in and get a team started on something rather than taking the time to really precisely and clearly set up the piece of work with absolute clarity for everyone working on it,” says Barker.

He therefore advises leaders to be “crystal clear” about the purpose of the project so everyone understands the shared goals they are working towards and what success looks like.

Doing so will resolve a lot of conflict in people’s minds from early on, he says.

“Marketers need to be really clear about the constraints they’re working with and what the opportunities are,” he adds. “By doing so there will be less wasted effort and fewer people pulling off in a direction based on their assumptions. It will also increase the likelihood of having a team of people working coherently and cohesively. You can then start to play to people’s strengths.”

Be a good mediator

In any business there is always the risk that different teams, with different targets, may end up butting heads so understanding working towards joint objectives is crucial.

“There is sometimes a conflict between the creative element of a business and the operational element, for example. Good leaders must let people have their say and share their ideas, but do so with an understanding of other departments by keeping the greater good in mind,” he explains.

“Leaders must learn to be good mediators.”

Don’t focus purely on results

Marketers need to shift the focus from what they are trying to achieve to how they are going to work together to achieve it.

You don’t fatten the pig by weighing it; you fatten the pig by feeding it. You’ve got to focus on the inputs not the output.

Matt Barker, K2

“In most businesses leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time staring at a spreadsheet and explaining the gap between expectation and reality rather than focusing on what actions they need to take to get the best possible results,” Barker says.

In the drive to deliver results, he says leaders often become fixated on the outcome of their work and lose sight of the creative process. By doing do there is a risk marketers will simply end up managing the numbers rather than leading the people.

“Leaders need to be focused on the inputs – behaviours, how we work together – that way the outcomes will be as good as they can be,” he adds.

“If you think only about numbers and outcomes you’re thinking about the wrong thing. You don’t fatten the pig by weighing it; you fatten the pig by feeding it. You’ve got to focus on the inputs not the output.”


Give away control

Barker believes the best leaders create an environment where as many people as possible can feel in control and free in their work.

Many leaders become controlling, however. “They micro manage people and hammer on about the outcome and don’t coach people and support them. They tell them what to do.”

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He believes good leadership comes from taking a light touch and giving people a lot of freedom.

“Give away as much autonomy and as can so people have got space to do their best work. If you over control the most you’re likely to get is compliance. The best leaders let other people lead within their team. They move the pieces and people around so they’re in the right place at the right time.

“They should lead the people and prompt the right conversations, set the goals and the intent and then manage the people around it. They are the directors of the play rather than puppeteers.”

By giving people more autonomy it also frees up leaders’ time to think about opportunities for the future rather than simply focusing on the jobs that need doing today.

“It is the leader’s job to think of future opportunities and challenges and then prepare the team and the business for what’s the come,” he concludes.

  • Matt Barker will be speaking at Marketing Week Live, which takes place on 8 and 9 March. For more information and to register for free visit: