The front cover of this month’s Marketing Week magazine poses the question ‘Do you have the anatomy of a leader?’ In this context, the focus is upon becoming a marketing leader and the publication has undertaken a new study, among over 600 marketers, to illuminate the enquiry.

It’s a challenging time for marketers, reflected in the high turnover of CMOs compared to colleagues in the C-suite. The breadth of required qualities and skills continues to expand, there is a widening range of stakeholders to embrace and traditional areas of responsibility like insight generation, data management and new product development (NPD) have become significantly more complex.

Tellingly, in a world where technology is assumed to fast-track everything, their accountability is intensified by the expectation that senior marketers will deliver business results, with tangible impact on brand growth and the bottom line, more quickly and more predictably than ever before. No wonder that, for one contributor to Marketing Week’s research, “I had the odd feeling that my life had become a play where I had to play all the parts.”

Diving into the detail within the study, interrogating how marketers define their key responsibilities and attributes in 2017, unsurprisingly the start point is how best to form the bridge between a business and its customers. Transforming this core role into effective leadership highlights the need for some specific capabilities which are judged to be at a premium in our elaborate global economy.

For example, commercial awareness is considered the most important responsibility marketers must master to become leaders. This is followed by knowledge of campaign planning and strategy, market research, innovation/NPD and financial reporting. Interestingly, given the acknowledged pressure on CMOs, business savvy along with a grip on innovation/NPD, data science/mathematics and psychology are actually gaining significance within the range of responsibilities.

Reassuringly, with regard to the essential attributes of a modern marketing leader, 86% of marketers believe that strategic thinking is the most crucial characteristic with, as might be expected in a rapidly changing environment, adaptability identified as the attribute growing most in importance, followed by strategic thinking.

Taking the view that any individual will eventually hit peak task where something has to give, Marketing Week’s research does indicate a belief among marketers that while understanding the principles of the functions which they oversee is a requirement of leadership, actually doing the work themselves is not.  This seems to apply to digital skills too despite an understandable feeling that these need to be acquired personally. The solution here surely lies in hiring and empowering strong, multi-disciplinary teams.

In short, this is a valuable study containing plenty of credible and relevant feedback from the marketing community on how to become a leader.

For me, though, there is a missing element. It may have been assumed in the responses, perhaps like some of the softer skills associated with successful leadership. But the surprise omission, in my view is anything but soft. It’s another bridge. In fact it’s a number of bridges, namely between the CMO and the other members of the C-suite/management team and/or key function heads.

To build a platform which will support a marketing leader, beyond the less than two year average tenure, it is vital to generate commitment among the other leaders in the business who may, shall we say, view marketing as more freestyle than compulsory figures (to borrow an old term from figure skating).

Without a clear, shared understanding of the role of marketing within an enterprise, the CMO and his or her department will be hostages to fortune at best, mischief at worst. In practical terms, they risk losing their licence to operate.

Marketing does not come in a single flavour. There are several theories for what makes brands grow. This gives rise to a number of questions. Which model are we using? What’s the evidence that ours works or where is the rationale for a robust hypothesis? What impact can we expect to see and when? How does marketing activity align with our wider business strategy?

None of the answers will necessarily represent exact science but openly confronting the questions and ensuring that senior colleagues are clear about the marketing programmes and their deliverables will help spread involvement, belief and forbearance. Most of all, building strong bridges internally will deliver against one of the most powerful phrases in the English language, i.e. managing expectations.

To be successful, marketing leaders need all of the responsibilities and attributes identified in the current issue of Marketing Week. They also need commitment from the non-marketing leaders within their organisations, both intellectual (understanding) and emotional (allegiance).