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By Sue Varty, Founder and CEO, HeadStart Copywriting.

Bennie F. Johnson launches AMA Toronto’s inaugural Marketing Leadership Week.  Join Bennie for a virtual fireside chat about “Leadership in Marketing” on June 5th.  

About Bennie F. Johnson

Bennie F. Johnson is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Marketing Association (AMA). AMA is the largest community-based marketing association in the world, trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover industry trends. AMA’s community of local chapters spans more than 70 cities and 320 college campuses throughout North America. AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, five premiere academic journals, and industry-leading live and virtual training events.

1. How has your design and community-building background impacted your approach to leadership?

One of the things I have learned that has been important, for both design and community, is that it's always about being intentional, dynamic, and a journey that is a work in progress. Design is iterative, and so is improving and working within a community, building upon what we did yesterday, for today, and to make tomorrow happen.

Leadership is a commitment to being intentional and being intentional means you are focused and creative. It’s an understanding that as the work continues for yourself, or as part of a team, your dedication to being intentional can make you a better leader.

Your intention helps to connect you with the people, the problem, or the opportunity. It also helps to connect you with how we navigate to make an impact. You want to be able to marshal those resources. Whether they are strategic thinking, material things, money, time, or people, you want to galvanize them all towards impact.

So, you're solving problems, either through innovation or iteration. These are all intentional acts to make things better. And that's what leadership is about, being able to bring those things together and bring them to the forefront.

2. According to the recent CMO Survey , marketers continue to face challenges and a slowdown of spending. What strategies can they use to be their own advocates?

What separates great marketing leaders is their creativity, their understanding of the entire business, and how to find creative solutions for the organization as a whole. Marketers see the ebbs and flows of marketing budgets and often don’t have enough of what they need, but they often rise above the tasks they need to deliver with fewer resources. And that's where creativity connected to the understanding the business comes in.

As marketers, we can do ourselves the best service by really internalizing and understanding the overall business, and how the unique set of skills that we have as marketers can bring organizations to greater success.

And often, it's not about using our language and our terminology. It's understanding what motivates the finance person at the table, the technology person, and HR, and then using their language to help move the organization forward.

The recent report in The Wall Street Journal talked about the notion that the tenure of CMOs was getting shorter, but it wasn’t because they are leaving the jobs or being pushed out. CMOs are moving up and contributing to different roles at their organizations. This speaks to a shift in a positive direction. Organizations are relying on marketing skills and insights, and are promoting leaders overall to drive business forward. It’s great to see people coming up through the CMO position to even greater roles within their organization with expanded leadership responsibilities.

3. What does the future hold for the AMA to support marketing leadership at all levels?

Our vision for the future of the AMA is providing an overall infrastructure that supports marketers at every stage of their careers. This means offering not only community infrastructure for programming, but also resources, volunteer support, and lifelong learning, including entrepreneurship or agency leadership work. I think of these as the superstructure, and the under structure of our community too, helping everyone on their marketing journey.

And, of course, we can help marketers grow as leaders through networking, mentorship, education, and professional development opportunities. It strengthens us all as professionals and provides a base of continuous knowledge.

What I love about marketing is that it is always expanding – there is no beginning or end. It’s our unique responsibility and opportunity to provide leadership in a variety of ways so that marketers can become stronger leaders. The AMA can fill in skills gaps and help with transitions to agency ownership as we all learn from one another.

Sue Varty<br>CEO, HeadStart Copywriting

Sue Varty
CEO, HeadStart Copywriting

HeadStart is a sponsor of the AMA and known for unlimited writing by subscription to create quality content with impact. HeadStart has been writing (by real people, for real voices) since 2012, and some current clients include AWS, Algolia, National Bank, CGI, and Icertis.

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