MQ Qureshi, Founding Partner and CEO of Xoobies and Former Head of Global Digital Experience at McDonald’s Corporation, discussed developing the CEO mindset as a CMO.
Qureshi began his thought leadership presentation at the 2019 Marketing Leadership Forum: The New CMO, Where Performance and Brand Intersect, held on February 26 in Chicago by stating, “The central theme of today’s forum is to talk about leadership. This isn’t just about becoming an owner of your space or a leader of your team. You’re already there. It’s about becoming CEO of your own output, which is your own product,” he stated.
“Some people love this notion of one’s own product and feel it’s empowering. Others despise it. A CEO is defined as, ‘the executive with the chief, decision-making authority in an organization or business,’ according to Merriam Webster, and that statement is what causes people to love this analogy or hate it. Marty Kagan breaks this primal response to the idea of the CEO into three types of reactions—power, fear, and consideration. People who view the CEO primarily in terms of power see that role as the person in charge of making decisions about everything. What appeals to this group of people is the influence that comes along with this title of CEO,” said Qureshi.
“The second group, which reacts with fear to the idea of the CEO as being in charge of their own product, immediately imagine the pressure, and they want none of it. They don’t want the responsibility of being the decider,” he said.
“The third group often doesn’t have a strong response. Their reaction is one of consideration. They realize the CEO doesn’t have to take responsibility for all decisions all the time. Most appreciate that an owner’s job is to balance the many competing needs that occur on a day-to-day basis. Balance is the most important part of this, and that’s what I hope people think about when they hear the notion of being the CEO of your product,” Quereshi explained.
“In my opinion, being CEO of your own product is all three of these things. Roles of the CEO include optimizing financial performance, optimizing the overall strategy, developing a corporate culture, and being the face of the company. We [as CMOs] may feel these things don’t apply to us, but I’m not talking about who empowers you. I’m talking about how we empower ourselves. This is about applying a set of criteria so that, when we approach our work, our product, or our department, we think how to map these responsibilities to our own,” he said.
“We think about this by considering how our product makes money, how it reinforces the overall strategy, how we develop the team’s culture, and how we’re the face of the product. I said I thought being the CEO of your product combines all three perspectives—power, fear, and consideration—but there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. There are some guiding principles that can help us. When it comes to power, you have to be comfortable about making decisions. Execution is what really matters. I learned the hard way that I was often too in love with my own product and not enough in love with how to sell it,” Qureshi admitted.
“We tend to think fear is bad, but a healthy amount of fear is a good thing. Oftentimes, we’re called to be the reasoned advisor who lays out the options and lets others make the decisions. We may also have situations in which we have to harness that fear and make decisions when there’s no good path or clear answer,” he said.
“In my opinion, the most effective CEOs aren’t the ones who can make quick decisions. We want CEOs that take the time to consider the options and make reasonable, durable decisions.”
Qureshi offered these takeaways: