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Written by Donna McLaren
Published: September 5, 2014

Lessons from Great Leaders for Inciting Success

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

Great leaders make a tangible impact. I have worked for a few great leaders in my more than 20-years in business and marketing and I often reflect on what I’ve learned from them. In my times of reflection, I ask myself how I can apply those lessons to my current leadership role.  These leaders took on challenges and, just as often, acted as “challengers.” That effort and determination drove success. Looking back, I achieved so much professionally under their leadership. So here are a few thoughts that you can use:

1) Be strong for results.

The business of marketing isn’t just about growth, but profitable growth.  But what is the “business of marketing,” and how do you transform a team to be focused on results? Its strategic business planning, marketing management, talent development, global and regional marketing systems, being a coach, being transparent and much more. Each person needs to understand that the performance of every marketing team member affects each and every person on the team, regardless of function (sales, branding, public relations, product marketing, etc.).

How did the leader I worked for rally around this? He created cross-functional teams. These teams showed us and opened our minds to different perspectives. The outputs of these group sessions were used to create a better, more integrated marketing plan. It was about taking a stronger role to drive the business AND to accelerate resolving key marketing and business issues. Why had they persisted for so long? We all knew what the issues were, but it took a strong leader to challenge us to resolve them — now, not later. This was an opportunity for us to develop as leaders, motivate our team to change and adapt to be successful. He pushed us to look beyond the same thing we had always done. As leaders, we need to understand that leading isn’t just about driving the change, but also delivering the business growth. It takes a strong leader to drive strong (profitable) business results — and achieve goals.

2) Forget vanilla — make it fun and business-relevant.

I admire leaders who think outside of the box and who are innovative and engaging. One business leader I admire is a maverick marketer who drives and delivers change. At a large corporate training session — you know, those meetings you could label “death by presentation” — we decided to do something different. We created a business presentation that was exciting, motivating and entertaining, and that got the business points across using video with great music and engaging B-roll outtakes, and a team exercise that was similar to a game show —we even hired a gymnast to do back-flips in front of the C-level leaders! It wasn’t a “vanilla” session — it was our very own custom flavor! Looking back in my files, I found these comments from C-Level leaders after this business-unit presentation: “I don’t think we could have asked for a better result” and “Congratulations for making such a great impact.” As my former leader would say, BOOYAH! It wasn’t vanilla. It was impactful — and relevant for producing results.

Now it’s your turn. How can you apply these concepts to your own projects? Be a challenger and make an impact!

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Leading Edge Business Leadership

Donna McLaren

Written by Donna McLaren

Donna McLaren leads Roberts Wesleyan College’s integrated marketing and manages the brand as the Associate Vice President of Brand & Marketing Communications. Under her leadership, Roberts won two Rochester PRism Awards in 2014 for the college’s Higher Learning public relations programs. Prior to joining Roberts in 2012, Donna McLaren was Director for Branding and Advertising for Kodak’s commercial printing business. In that role, she managed a worldwide team in the development and execution of B2B marketing communications. She has more than 20 years working in marketing, product launch, and training in corporate America. She has been an adjunct professor at the College since 2006 and has taught in both the MSMK and MSL graduate programs.