The CMO role has evolved tremendously over the past few years. In addition to leading marketing, the marketing executive today must be able to drive ROI for the business – requiring a more advanced skill set than before.

As CMO executive recruiters, we talk to many marketing professionals who have aspirations of becoming a CMO, and wonder what the road to the top will take. We can say there’s no one-shot path that will directly lead to the C-suite as a marketer. However, there are important things to practice if you want to become a CMO or any executive in the C-suite.

The Key to Growing Your Marketing Career to the Next Level

Top Skills CMO Executive Recruiters See in Aspiring CMOs

Do you see yourself as a CMO on the horizon? To successfully guide you on your marketing career path to executive leadership, CMO executive recruiters suggest ambitious marketers to hone in on these important habits:

Get Comfortable with Delegating

This is a skill you should continuously work on every step of the way throughout your journey. As your title grows, the number of people you’re leading does, too. Therefore, your leadership skills have to expand to effectively manage increasingly broader and diverse skill sets and individuals.

As marketing executive recruiters, our clients often ask candidates “how do you get things done through people?” A critical part of great leadership is the ability to delegate tasks to members of your team to make processes more efficient. Assigning important tasks can be challenging if you’re super hands-on and think it’s easier to just complete something on your own. However, enlisting the appropriate people to handle time-consuming tasks puts time back on your plate, allowing you to focus on more important priorities.

The ability to lead a team to execute projects and campaigns requires practice and experience. Nevertheless, the value you gain from teaching others through hands-on experience is incredibly rewarding. Employees understand how they directly contribute to success while you’re able to give back and mentor them to develop important skills and knowledge.

Assigning roles to the right people, however, doesn’t mean that you should be arrogantly bossy. It requires high emotional intelligence and adept communication skills to become an effective and efficient leader.

Master Cross-Functional Leadership

You may currently be a Marketing Manager, in charge of managing a team of general marketers. However, now that you’re on the route to become a VP of Marketing (and eventually a CMO), you will be in charge of leading a wide array of roles on your team that are cross-functional.

As CMO executive recruiters, we’ve directly witnessed marketing become progressively cross-functional. Along with growing top- and bottom-line growth, managing ROI, leading a department, and pushing digital transformation, today’s CMO is in charge of owning a lot more functions than before.

At the CMO level, you must readily be able to lead an increasingly diverse group from a skill set perspective. You will be responsible for managing a number of teams and enterprise-wide projects that reach beyond marketing, but through the entire organization. Successful CMOs also have to constantly tune their skillsets over time to properly lead their team, or risk falling behind.

Be Deliberate About Your Decisions

If you have a gap in your skill set that you want to fill, make sure the next opportunity you seek caters to it. Whether it’s internally in your current employer or through another company, you must pursue opportunities that will continuously expand your skills.

As a CMO, you’re going to be leading a broad group of marketing functions and company-wide initiatives. While specializing in a specific discipline is valuable, being familiar and knowledgeable across various disciplines is necessary. Working at a smaller company allows you to stretch your skills and learn marketing in a broader scope, while a larger company allows you to gain a more specialized skill set.

Be strategic with every choice you make throughout your path to the C-suite and treat every opportunity as a learning experience. The better you leverage each opportunity to learn and develop key skills, the more successful you will be in reaching the CMO position.

Be Okay With Where the Journey Takes You

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You may have a set plan and idea of where you want to go career-wise, but be open to where the course of your journey takes you. It’s smart to be deliberate about your career choices, but understand that things may change as you progress through your career.

For instance, if you’ve aspired to be a CMO of a major fortune 500 company because of your experience and aspirations, but you suddenly realize down the road that it’s not the best fit for you professionally – accept that. You want to have a connection with and be passionate about your career in the most authentic way.

Certain circumstances may be out of your control or there may simply be a change in your own career desires. Whatever it may be, don’t think that your plan going off course is the end – it may be exactly what you need to truly determine where you want to go in the long-run.

However, it’s not just about where you want to be, it’s additionally about pursuing opportunities that are the best for you. Finding a balance between strategic planning and being open-minded will give you the best mindset to steer your career toward your own definition of success.

Final Thoughts

The CMO role is an incredibly dynamic and exciting role. However, the journey to the top doesn’t happen overnight. It takes great dedication and passion to get there.

Everyone’s journey is different, and the steps you take will vastly differ from everyone else’s. Whether you aspire to be the head of marketing one day or are still trying to figure out where you want your career to go, NOW is the time in your life to take a hold of it. Seize every opportunity that will propel you forward and continue to become the bold marketer you have always been!