CMOs: More imaginative, outgoing and bolder than the rest of the c-suite

Chief marketing officer’s ability to act unconventionally makes them 49% more imaginative than other c-suite figures. However, the more flamboyant qualities of CMOs can also hinder their progress in becoming a CEO.

The new ‘Inside the Mind of the CMO’ report by executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates is based on data from 36 CMOs across companies totalling more than $1.5 trillion – as well as Russell Reynolds’ own broader database of executives – and split across 60 psychometric scales.

And it claims those who inhabit the most senior role in marketing are generally “innovative, have a pioneering spirit and act unconventionally to test limits.”

As such, CMOs are 30% more outgoing and 34% more likely to take initiative and test limits than other c-suite executives. However, these unique characteristics can also come at a price.

With CMOs 33% more unconventional than other c-suite executives, this trait is listed as one that “hinders” their attempts to become a CEO within an organisation.

They are also 32% more likely to abandon conventional company structures and guidelines, and – perhaps taking inspiration from Don Draper – 29% more likely to display flashy leadership.

“Transformational industries, in particular, are probably better suited to the CMO leadership style, as are companies in the midst of change or innovation programmes,” reads the report. “CMOs may struggle as a CEO in more heavily regulated industries.”

It also advises: “The CMO leadership style can be unconventional, colourful and flashy. CEOs must exhibit measured emotion, and excel at calculated—not careless—risk taking. To take the role, CMOs – who test limits, are bold and upfront in their influencing style – need to moderate how they display some of their more extreme attributes.”

Despite the study’s warnings, it appears that more and more marketers are becoming chief executives.

Just over one fifth (21%) of all FTSE 100 CEOs now come from a sales or marketing background compared to just 15% in 2011, according to recent research from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.