Four Crucial Leadership Lessons for Marketing and Beyond

Four Crucial Leadership Lessons for Marketing and Beyond

Four Crucial Leadership Lessons for Marketing and Beyond
  Four Crucial Leadership Lessons for Marketing and Beyond 

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”   – Warren Bennis 
This July marks 19 years since I entered the workforce. Nineteen amazing years in the software-enterprise world shaped by life-changing moments, incredible travels, beautiful encounters, and, more importantly, crucial leadership lessons that have helped me grow and become myself. 

1. Life-Long Comradery   

The first and possibly the most important lesson that would set the tone for my professional career was learning to embrace comradery in the workplace.  When I was young, my father went into business with a family member. The two didn’t work well together despite their friendly ties, and this made affairs within the family very strained.   Having witnessed my father go through this, the lesson I held tight was that friendships and work should be kept separate.   I soon realized, though, that the conclusion I had drawn all those years ago was simply not true.  
While this can prevent vulnerability, making things personal at work usually creates a stronger sense of belonging and loyalty. This then drives stronger collaboration and greater achievements.  Not to mention the importance that lies in paying it forward. Throughout my career, I have learned to cultivate meaningful relationships with colleagues and mentors. Some of them with whom, even after a few decades, I remain connected. Our friendship allowed us to support and vouch for each other. 
All this to say that in coming to this realization, I overcame my own fears. I did not let what happened to my father define my own professional experience. I know the value in creating a culture that encourages long-lasting friendships and comraderies within the workplace: they’re essential to a happy and successful work life. 

2. The Power of Discomfort

The next big lesson I learned was the sheer power that lies in discomfort.   When accepting the role of chief marketing officer (CMO) of SAP Ariba, and SAP Fieldglass soon after, my comfort in being in control of the granular details was now no longer applicable to my broad role.   I went from having a specific purpose to fill to being the leader across all areas of marketing. You could say I was a bit overwhelmed.   
I sought guidance from my mentors, and one of them shared wisdom that changed my perspective on what it meant to be a leader in this new capacity.   She told me to set the vision, give clear direction, and get out of the way. What my mentor meant was to give my leaders their autonomy.  I’ll be honest, this was among the most challenging shifts. I needed to surrender direct control and take a chance on trusting them, even if they failed. That meant more risk, more accountability, more exposure. Everything had just amplified.

It is easier said than done; so, how did I do it?       

  • First, I started by telling them. I changed the way I communicated and used the words “I trust you” more often.      
  • Second, I started asking more open-ended questions, inviting their thoughts, and seeking their advice.     
  • Third, I embraced the exposure and the accountability that go with the inevitable occasional failures within your team. It is impossible to empower people and then turn your back on them when something goes wrong. When you practice protecting your team, they feel safe to take risks despite the possibility of failure.
It took months of practice to become comfortable with getting out of the way.  But I persevered and slowly started noticing the shift in my team’s behavior as well as my own.  Today, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to receive smart and well-informed advice from the leaders around me. I’m grateful for their wisdom.

3. Patience   

And who am I to be too hard on my team or myself when, according to research, it takes between 10,000 to 15,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a craft?   To put that into perspective, it would take someone working the average 40-hour work week approximately five to seven years to master their craft.  My wife reminds me of this whenever I get uneasy or too hard on myself. She reminds me to be patient. Patience. What a simple, yet complex idea to truly comprehend. But it is essential that we do.  
Very often, impatience is rooted in our self-esteem, because we’re comparing ourselves or our lives to others.   But it’s important to be reminded that the achievements of others should not lessen our own achievements and our own value, because there is a process in life.   There’s a reason we are where we are. And there are no shortcuts in life.Life is not about the result, it is about growth and evolution. Failure and patience are always a part of that journey.

4. It’s About Noticing  

After 19 years, I have come to think that it’s important to look beyond the trees and see the forest.  I have come to shape my beliefs around this very simple fact: We all need to put food on the table.   When you become a leader, you are at the service of others for a greater purpose. As a leader, it’s about those that support you, and it’s about empowering them.   At the end of the day, we are all connected to each other because we want to earn a living to provide for our families and the people in our lives whom we love.   One of my favorite quotes is something that Richard Branson said about the importance of employees: 

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. Take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients”
The reality we all need to truly come to is that we work with people. People who are susceptible to life just like we are: the good, the bad, and the ugly.People who end up having to have a surgery, live through a personal tragedy, or lose their home to a terrible storm. People we celebrate because they just got engaged, or their oldest child has mastered their craft so well that they are bound for the Olympics!  
It’s about celebrating this life-long comradery that comes from experiencing discomfort together, working those 15,000 hours of mastering our craft together, getting out of each other’s way, and ultimately learning to be grateful for being in each other’s lives.The importance lies in making people feel empowered, noticed, and valued. The last 19 years have truly shaped the person I am today, and I am eager to take on the next 19 surrounded by the incredible colleagues, mentors, and family members who support and inspire me each day. 

                                              Tifenn Dano Kwan
CMO of Dropbox

I am an LGBTQ advocate, a motorcyclist who loves nature and yoga, a business driven marketer and an empathetic leader who believes in the power of data and collaboration. Curious and adventurous by nature, with a growth mindset and a passion for authentic connections, I thrive when I am inspired by great teams, by great leaders and by great technology. My mission is to help shape the future of work through the conduit of marketing, powered by intelligent and superior experiences that help people reach their potential.
Strategic Marketing & Planning Customer 
Loyalty Strategies  
Corporate Communications & Public Relations  
Brand Management Event Operations and Strategy  
Lead Generation  
Digital Marketing Revenue Growth Strategies  New Product Development Market & Trend Analysis Global Leadership 
New Business 
Public Speaking 
Team Building & Engagement 
Operations Management Training & Development Diversity & Inclusion Sales and Marketing Collaboration 
Talent hiring and growth

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