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FOCUS: Management Excellence



Why effective leaders must manage up, down and sideways

Strong team leadership isn’t enough. New research shows the importance – for business impact and career success – of also mobilising your boss and colleagues

Most of the leadership advice aimed at senior functional managers is how to build, align, energise and guide a world-class team. This is a challenging task in its own right, but we all know it isn’t the whole story. Leaders, even those in the C-suite, must also extend their influence upward and horizontally.

Organisation theory suggests that managing upward and sideways is good for both the company and the individual leader’s career: CEOs need the insights and pushback of trusted executives to help sharpen strategy. And complex modern organisations benefit when people engage with their peers across functional and business-unit boundaries to bring a range of perspectives and drive change and innovation.

Our research confirms this theory, and then some. In a wide-ranging study of the leadership actions of chief marketing officers (CMOs) – a good proxy, we believe, for the skills and behaviours of functional leaders in general – we’ve shown how ‘managing’ the CEO and mobilising colleagues increases business impact and career success. (For leadership research on another C-suite proxy, the CFO, see ‘How functional leaders become CEOs’.1) To test our hypothesis, we asked more than 1 200 senior marketing executives from 71 countries about their perceived business impact (contribution to revenue and profit growth), their career success, and their characteristics against 96 variables. Using statistical techniques (explained below12), we were able to relate to these outcomes the 96 variables (which included leadership behaviours, functional skills, personality traits, socio-demographic variables, and external factors, such as peoples’ fit with the company). We supplemented this research by analysing existing 360-degree data on 7 429 marketing and non-marketing leaders – a total of 67 278 individual evaluations by these leaders’ bosses, peers, subordinates, and themselves.

Our findings lend support to the notion that senior executives should pay more attention to mobilising their bosses (managing upward) and functional colleagues (managing horizontally) (see diagram). Taken together, these upward and horizontal actions were about 50% more important than managing subordinates for business success (45% versus 30%) and well over twice as important for career success (47% versus 19%).

Clearly, there’s more to success than managing up and sideways: leading a high-performance functional team accounted for 30% of the explained variation in our CMOs’ business impact, and 19% for career success, and managing yourself accounted for the remaining variation.

Mobilising subordinates, in particular, is the base executives need to build from if they want to establish credibility with the CEO and with colleagues. The best executives build strong teams, relentlessly enhance team members’ skills, keep subordinates focused with objective performance measures, and establish an environment conducive to trust and loyalty.

But they also do much more. Our model helped us identify the most important specific actions associated with managing upward and horizontally, and our 360-degree survey data confirmed that some of those actions receive less emphasis than they should.2

Mobilising your boss: Focus on strategic issues and demonstrate financial results

When we asked CMOs about their primary role, some responded that they ;’ran the marketing organisation’ or ‘led their companies’ advertising and brand campaigns’. We believe many other functional leaders would provide similar departmentally focused responses. By contrast, the most effective and successful leaders in our study were more likely to describe their primary role as increasing company growth or better outreach to customers to improve performance. We found that a key determinant of success was taking on the big issues, those in sync with the CEO’s agenda and contributing to the company’s overall performance. Aligning with the CEO’s strategy explained 10% of CMO business impact and 10% of career success.

But are functional leaders well aligned with the CEO’s agenda? Seventy-six per cent of our CMOs said yes – but just 46% of the bosses in our 360-degree database believed their marketers knew where the organisation was going. Many functional leaders, it seems, could and should better align with the top.

Building a reputation as an effective user of resources also increases standing with the CEO. In our study, the ability to demonstrate returns explained 12% of CMO business impact and 3% of career success. Here, we again found a gap: while 67% of our CMOs said they had a strong returns orientation, only 39% of C-suite executives in another study reported that marketing executives were delivering measurable return on investment for their expenditure.3

Mobilising your colleagues: forge strong ties with peers to build momentum

If you want to build a ‘movement’ within the company, lead from the front with an inspiring story to win the hearts and minds of colleagues, including those who don’t report to you, and with a clear action plan to deliver tangible results. That can initiate a virtuous circle of internal recognition by energising a cadre of early followers among colleagues. Our research suggests that leading from the front and having a strong narrative together explained nearly 10% of business impact and about 20% of career success. The ability to reach beyond the marketing silo to executives in areas such as IT and finance explained an additional 13% of the variation in both business impact and career success.

Only 56% of CEOs, however, described their marketing leaders as role models who lead from the front, and only 61% of CMOs said they use their storytelling skills. Tellingly, while marketers are adept at telling stories that mobilise customers to buy their products, we find they are less likely to ply that strength internally, despite the importance of effective engagement with colleagues.

Mobilising horizontally means walking the halls, getting out of the office to share ideas with peers, listening to their concerns, and working jointly to attack strategic issues. In theory, leaders could do many of their interactions on video these days. But that’s rarely inspiring. Instead, the best leaders connect directly with as many people as possible through town halls when they travel to local markets, and hunker down to help teams solve their biggest problems.4

Fortunately, the actions needed to mobilise the CEO and colleagues are often mutually reinforcing. For instance, moves by functional leaders to build support horizontally are often related to their simultaneous efforts to show tangible results and advance the organisation’s strategy.

While CEOs rely on functional leaders’ ability to build high-performance teams, much more needs to be done to help these leaders extend their influence upward into the C-suite and horizontally across the organisation. Happily, our work suggests that not only business impact but also career success redounds to those CMOs (and, we believe, functional leaders of all stripes) who can increase their span of leadership influence upward and across functions.


1.CMO = chief marketing officer; share for mobilizing self not shown: business impact = 25%, career success = 34%

2. See Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise, The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader: How to Suceed by Building Customer and Company Value, McGraw-Hill Education, September 2016

3. Outside looking in:The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2012

4. Thomas Barta, “CMO leadership talk with Diageo’s Syl Saller: ‘Life’s too short for PowerPoint,’” Forbes, February 24, 2017, forbes.com.

Authors: Thomas Barta is a McKinsey alumnus and was a partner in the firm’s Cologne office; Patrick Barwise is emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School


9 Ways to up your game and multiply your earnings

The object of a good, solid meaningful career is to operate from a position of influence. The question is, how do you get there?

As a CA(SA), moving up the value chain is important. It’s almost an intrinsic ingredient of the personal self-actualisation process.

We’re an ambitious bunch and we want more!

The puzzling question is how is it that some of us are able to get there so much quicker, whilst others make little progress even though they have the same academic qualifications.

I personally have never disfavoured Lady Luck but there is a lot more of a lasting benefit attached to knowing that you are empowered to effect change all by yourself!

So the answer to the above question is a resounding ‘yes’ – you can definitely speed up your development!

So here is part of the secret: it’s all about moving from a manager mentality to executive mind-set.

That’s it.

Game over!

And it all begins with this: managers get CPI annual increases whilst executives get paid what they are worth!

Getting to manager status is usually a natural progression. Once you qualify, you move up the scale and attain the title ‘manager’. Sure, there are good managers and bad managers but, as a CA, you can reasonably assured that you will land a management role once you qualify. And you will grow yourself and move forward at a leisurely pace, earning an acceptable ‘market-related’ package.

But the next stage of your development will require a little more proactive manoeuvring. This is the proactive manoeuvring that is required for you to make the transition from manger to executive.

You might think that some of your colleagues do this quite easily. This is especially possible if they are the extrovert-type, good networkers and go cycling/golfing with the boss or stay for drinks after work.

Well, here’s the good news.

It’s not only about that – there’s a lot more involved.  And, if you did a proper post-mortem, you would find that the outer frills that looked so important at the outset, are actually backed up by a number of critical attributes that run much deeper.

And it is these attributes that you can learn and apply to take yourself solidly into the executive realm.

But know this! – it is definitely is not an overnight sensation.

It’s a process. And it’s more about relationship building than it is about skill development.

Part of it will be automatic. But, by being creative and proactive, you can make a significant difference in speeding up the process.

The following nine critical steps will help you enter the executive orbit more effectively.

1 The relationship dynamics

Understanding the relationship dynamics at play in the work place is critical. There are three basic relationships that need to be clearly understood:

•             You and your staff – you are the boss and need to be in charge.

•             You and your colleagues – you are not the boss and therefore cannot be in charge.

•             You and your boss – you are the subordinate and your boss is in charge.

Being aware of the importance of each of these relationships allows you to set the stage for your admittance into the executive space. How to interact to create maximum advantage is the name of the game.

But this needs to be understood. And practised.

The benefits are incalculable. Knowing how to deal with people can make a big difference to the results you will get. Learn this skill and you are one big step ahead!

2 Stick with protocol

Following closely behind the relationship dynamic is the principle of corporate protocol.

Protocol is defined as a system of rules that explain the correct conduct or procedures that need to be followed in formal situations.

This might sound awfully stuffy but it operates like this: in organisations there are lines of command. This is usually laid out in the corporate organogram. Jumping these command lines will upset people. You are less likely to be let into the executive club if you are constantly ignoring protocol.

3 Your personal brand

How others perceive affects your progress. Do not underestimate the importance of your personal brand. If you start looking the part, you will get there much quicker.

Branding yourself as an executive requires a greater level of awareness and focus. This could range from wearing branded clothing, clever props like pens and note pads to manicuring your nails. The impact of a good visual presence is worth the effort. The saying ‘first impressions are lasting impressions’ is appropriately valid in the corporate context.

4 Playing the game

I’ve got some bad news for you – the workplace is a game.

Ignore the game at your peril!

Sure, if you want to stay on the management level, the game is not that pronounced. But in the executive space it’s essential. If you do not know the rules, it is unlikely that you will be let into the executive club.

So it looks as simple as this: you cannot play cricket when everyone else is playing soccer.

Part of this game playing is understanding the different personalities in the mix. Often the executive team is dominated by a person with narcissistic tendencies.

Failure to deal with such people in the appropriate manner will prevent you from gaining traction on the team. Standing firm on important issues is part of the process but it’s more about avoiding getting sucked into some of the manipulative tactics that are used.

5 Stepping up – make a decision

The concept of stepping up is one of the deciding markers between managers and executives.

Managers ask for confirmation whilst executives make a call and step forward and commit themselves to a course of action.

Obviously corporate governance sets the boundaries, but within those boundaries executives will make decisions even if they turn out to be wrong. And even more than that, they take responsibility – if it’s a bad decision, they stand firmly behind their choice and, if necessary, face the music. Although there are unsavoury characters who will look to shift blame onto an unsuspecting subordinate, in the main, executives will stand solid on their decisions – even if they face the possibility of dismissal.

Decision-making is an important part of leadership. Being able to weigh up the options and choose a course of action, is the sign of strong leadership. Stalling on decisions and floundering in a space of uncertainty will expose your inability to ‘carry the flag’.

6 Present the answer not the question

Following from the point above, managers tend to be more likely to ‘dump’ than to solve. Where the manager will arrive with good ideas, the executive will arrive with a fully researched feasibility study confirming the viability of the project including clear identifications of the pros and cons. All the boss has to do is sign it off!

7 Be second-in-command

As mentioned above, it is you who needs to make a proactive move into the executive space. It is your actions that will create the outcome.

Like all clubs, in order to become a member, you need to be nominated. The best way of doing this is to select a respected referee to put you forward. And who better than your boss?

If you want to be recognised as a candidate executive, you need the vote of your boss. Accordingly your relationship with your boss is paramount. But it’s more than that. When you sit on the side of management, you are positioning on the wrong side of the fence. Moving over to the executive side is a game-changer.

But beware!

Attempts to get closer to your boss can look like approval-seeking behaviour. This will not work! If you become high-maintenance, constantly needing his attention and support, you are displaying immaturity. That will be disastrous!

What is needed is something much more subtle.

The desired alternative is to set up a regular weekly meeting. Prepare an agenda and inform him of what you are doing and the progress being made by your team. By keeping him up to date you give him the ability to be more in control. This makes him look good to his boss as he will be able to always give up-to-date feedback. This might also allow him to feed some of the more higher-level information down to you. This empowers you as well.

This will result in you moving closer to the executive space. The more this happens, the easier it is for you to slot in as his second-in-command and that is the beginning of your journey to the top.

8 Avoid conflict at all costs

I’m amazed at how many of my clients believe that by not being confrontational they are ineffective and weak.

There could be nothing further from the truth! Here’s the good news – confrontation results in inefficiency and wasted energy. It is the least effective mechanism in achieving results and should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Executives don’t fight – they manoeuvre. They seek resolution by firstly understanding the problem and then following due process to ensure the matter is dealt with openly and professionally.

This does not mean to say that your boss will mirror this approach. But when you are looking to enter the executive space you will be disqualified if you are known to be too confrontational.

9 Networking

Most people find networking difficult. It is, however, an essential part of presenting yourself in the executive space. Here is an interesting slant on networking:

It’s not what you know and it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

Bearing this in mind, you will find that the whole strategy changes. Your intention centres on gentle interventions here and there so that influential people get to know you be name.

So here are some pointers when networking at company events:

  • Show up at company events. By just being present allows you the opportunity to create connection.
  • Always go up to influential directors and greet them. You don’t have to hang around and chat. Just make the connection in a pleasant and engaging way. This requires humility and subservience.
  • Find a way to connect with those senior executives who could advance your career. This could include taking stuff directly to their office instead of sending it via a messenger. You could also position yourself to being in the parking area when he arrives. Get into their line of vision in a non-invasive way. But do it!

External networking is a little more difficult. Apply the same principles as described above but you might want to set a target for yourself. Aim to speak to three new people at an event and give out your business card. Here is the bottom line on networking: you need to be seen engaging with others. Choose a way that is most comfortable for you but show up and do it.


There is nothing particularly earth-shattering about the process described above. Nor is there a call for you to compromise your value system or change your personality.

Just know that you have the responsibility to develop yourself and if you are not making headway, look at your actions. It’s got little to do with whether you are an extrovert or introvert.

Author: Clive Kaplan CA(SA) is CEO of The Green Mind Capital Group



8 Habits of influential people

Influential people have a profound impact on everyone they encounter. Yet, they achieve this only because they exert so much influence inside, on themselves

We see only their outside. We see them innovate, speak their mind, and propel themselves forward toward bigger and better things. And, yet, we’re missing the best part.

The confidence and wherewithal that make their influence possible are earned. It’s a labour of love that influential people pursue behind the scenes, every single day.

And while what people are influenced by changes with the season, the unique habits of influential people remain constant.

Their focused pursuit of excellence is driven by eight habits that you can emulate and absorb until your influence expands:

1 They think for themselves

Influential people aren’t buffeted by the latest trend or by public opinion. They form their opinions carefully, based on the facts.

They’re more than willing to change their mind when the facts support it, but they aren’t influenced by what other people think, only by what they know.

2 They are graciously disruptive

Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.

3 They inspire conversation

When influential people speak, conversations spread like ripples in a pond. And those ripples are multidirectional; influencers inspire everyone around them to explore new ideas and think differently about their work.

4 They leverage their networks

Influential people know how to make lasting connections. Not only do they know a lot of people, they get to know their connections’ connections. More importantly, they add value to everyone in their network. They share advice and know how, and they make connections between people who should get to know each other.

5 They welcome disagreement

Influential people do not react emotionally and defensively to dissenting opinions – they welcome them. They’re humble enough to know that they don’t know everything and that someone else might see something they missed. And if that person is right, they embrace the idea wholeheartedly because they care more about the end result than being right.

6 They are proactive

Influential people don’t wait for things like new ideas and new technologies to find them; they seek those things out. These early adopters always want to anticipate what’s next. They’re influential because they see what’s coming, and they see what’s coming because they intentionally look for it. Then they spread the word.

7 They respond rather than react

If someone criticises an influential person for making a mistake, or if someone else makes a critical mistake, influential people don’t react immediately and emotionally. They wait. They think. And then they deliver an appropriate response. Influential people know how important relationships are and they won’t let an emotional overreaction harm theirs.

They also know that emotions are contagious and overreacting has a negative influence on everyone around them.

8 They believe

Influential people always expect the best. They believe in their own power to achieve their dreams, and they believe others share that same power. They believe that nothing is out of reach, and that belief inspires those around them to stretch for their own goals. They firmly believe that one person can change the world.

Bringing it all together

To increase your influence, you need to freely share your skills and insights, and you must be passionate in your pursuit of a greater future.


Authors: Dr Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the  bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart, a leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies