Attributes of an effective marketing leader, part 7: initiative

Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things. This quote from Jesse Jackson summarizes the essence of the seventh attribute of effective marketing leaders – initiative.

Leaders don’t wait to be told what needs to be done. They are perpetually dissatisfied with the status quo. They see the same problems others see but can’t sit still while the problem goes unresolved. Inaction is not an option. I’m not sure whether this is a “personality defect” or a learned characteristic, but the attribute is both a blessing and a curse. Either way, people who possess this inner sense of taking the initiative distinguish themselves from most of the population.

Initiators become champions of causes that others want to follow (watch the video on your right for a bit of inspiration on this point). Sometimes this is the person who refuses to be worn down by corporate bureaucracy, inertia and apathy when others have given up. Other times it is the person who steps forward and has an idea that inspires those around him. But most often it is someone who knows that things can be better and decides to take responsibility for doing something about it.

A person’s position may mandate that he or she initiate actions. In a company that is experiencing revenue challenges all eyes are on the CMO to see what changes he or she will initiate. In this case many of the previously discussed attributes, such as vision, insight and courage, will be important in fulfilling the organization’s expectations. Ford’s leaders are handling this well right now. Toyota’s? Not so well!

But frequently initiative comes from someone without an organizational mandate. This brave soul decides that a risk is worth taking and doesn’t care about the question, “Who put you in charge,” and acts because action was needed. He stepped forward because someone had to. She stood up because sitting quietly would not make the situation better. These are the leaders every organization must nurture.

Who on your team is an initiator? How do you support the risks they take? Are you still initiating change the way you used to? If not, what happened? Great marketing leaders emerge from those who take the initiative. Are you one of them?