How to spot a future B2B leader

Catherine Dutton, VP of marketing at Atos, shares the leadership traits you should keep in mind when recruiting the next generation of marketers

Catherine Dutton

On a recent B2B Marketing webinar, How to be part of the next wave of B2B marketing leaders, Atos' Catherine Dutton provided insight into what marketing leaders are looking for from the next wave of B2B talent, and how to develop leadership talent within your own organisation. Here's what she had to say.

Do you have a formal leadership programme - either within marketing or the business more generally?

Cat: We have some fantastic leadership programmes both within the UK and globally. They’re at at different levels from graduates through to Global Exec level. We don’t have one specific to marketing but for the best on my team I ensure they have a leadership development plan in place, which incorporates both external and internal areas that are specific to them.

Is there a difference between leading and managing? If so, what does it look like?

There is absolutely a difference. You can be a fantastic manager, guiding people on a day-to-day basis, but leadership is more focused on the operational side – for example, setting objectives, running appraisals, managing budgets.

Leadership is really about painting a vision for your teams, having that high-level strategy and not being too prescriptive of how you get there. It’s about being able to bring others together and working with them on that journey while seeking out those qualities that make them shine. In my opinion, it’s also about being humble. It’s giving others those incredible opportunities or enabling them to happen for your team while appreciating others with praise. It’s about creating an environment that’s inspiring, creative and safe. 

Staff should feel they can do whatever they aspire to and if it doesn’t always work out it’s okay, because their leader is going to be there for them.

Listen to Cat give further advice on this question in this clip from the webinar below.

With B2B marketing changing faster than ever, what are some of the characteristics you look for in a future employee?

The ability to communicate is key. Someone can have all the technical, data and analytical capabilities you might need, but if they can’t effectively communicate their opinions and bring others on the journey, it’s a bit of a non-starter. Being flexible and adaptable in their approach and having the willingness to work with different individuals as a part of the team are all essential skills. These are the competencies and attributes I always look for when recruiting.

When recruiting, do you get any external assistance, input or validation?

We use external organisations to assess hires for senior leadership roles, that’s in addition to our internal leaders and HR teams. We usually use external support to deliver a 360 assessment, so that we can see their core competencies, strengths and areas of development. We can then work together on a joint development plan, and this can include anything from identifying a mentor or coach to support them in working on areas such as senior-level relationships and influencing others.

What experiences can potentially contribute towards leadership success? 

Having firsthand experience of either working directly with a client or being client-side can be beneficial. I started my career working directly with clients, and it gave me that view early on, which I feel really privileged to have. This has put me in good stead for the marketing roles I have done since. Any roles involving owning an account P&L, working on delivery  or within the wider business is really useful for leadership success, as they give you a business view and a different perspective into a marketing leadership role.

What are some key strategies in cultivating leadership within your team? 

Leadership across my team is essential. We are working with clients and businesses at all levels on a day-to-day basis, so having individuals that are professional allows us to challenge and provide constructive recommendations. I’m a big believer in personal development, training and professionalism. I deliberately set aside a significant budget  each year to invest in training. Four individuals are undertaking CIM qualifications and my direct reports are on various leadership teams and external committees.

Having clear succession planning is also a key part of this so people have roles to aspire to and a clear view of how to get there. This is especially important within a small team. With my role, it’s also about providing an environment for individuals to flourish. So it’s about giving individuals different opportunities whether that’s secondments, working on different programmes/projects or simply asking them to do a presentation to an Executive member. You also can’t be afraid to allow others to really develop, learn and bring in new ideas and innovations. That should be encouraged to really cultivate true leadership.

What’s the best bit of advice you were given on becoming a successful leader?

The best piece of advice I was given very early on in my career was to just be myself. Don’t try to change the core of who you. You can enhance your strengths and work on development areas, but be true to yourself, because ultimately, you have to be happy with the choices and decisions you make and the way in which you lead others. This has always put me in a good mindset for any opportunities or challenges that have headed my way.

Do you believe people should plan their career?

I think it’s useful to have a rough plan, but I think planning out meticulously that in 12 months you’re going to do this role, then in 24 months your going to do that role, doesn’t work. You should  always have ambition but be flexible in mindset. It’s the journey that gives you the experiences, competencies and skills to build your career. Grab every opportunity that comes up, and you will get there eventually.

I also believe that everyone is in their own career race and they need to work out what’s right for them. Just because a peer has been promoted ahead of you, doesn’t mean you won’t get promoted or should be disheartened. It’s about making the most of your opportunities and if there aren’t any, then create them.

How do you think leadership in B2B marketing is going to change in the near future? And how can marketers prepare for this? 

There is a need for greater creativity. As technology advances, having that ability to think about the future creatively and distinctly will help you stay ahead of the competitors. Spend some time learning new things, keeping an open mind and immersing yourself in what’s happening in the world. 

You also need emotional resilience. I think all leaders need this anyway. One of the things that has really helped me in this area, is having a few trusted individuals or peers in the organisation that you can bounce ideas off or share issues with. Building that network of a few trusted colleagues helps. There’s also the ability to have enough knowledge to make decisions, even if you don’t know every single detail. This one is also tough, but I think it comes down to listening to those around you more. 

How to be part of the next wave of B2B marketing leaders

What skills, attributes and competencies do the leaders of tomorrow need? More importantly, what do today's aspiring marketers need to do to be ready for emerging leadership opportunities? Our expert panel will reveal all in this webinar and answer any questions you have.

Discover the skills you need to be a marketing leader of the future

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