Antonio Lucio on Leading from the Front, Back and Middle

The former Facebook Global CMO shares what he believes are the key traits of a strong leader

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

Antonio Lucio’s inclusive leadership approach as the former CMO of Facebook has allowed him to create an environment where everyone’s opinions can be valued and enhanced to the greatest of their abilities. During his segment on the 150th episode of CMO Moves, Antonio discusses inclusive leadership, how to earn credibility, when to lead by influence and more.

Early on you set a lot of great advice on the table for other CMOs. Going back to that first CMO Moves episode, you said I am a business person first. I am a marketing artisan second.” Can you elaborate on that? 

When you are appointed to the CMO chair, you are appointed as a functional leader. But more importantly, you are appointed as a business leader for the company and you are supposed to extend your influence beyond those things that you are responsible for. If on top of that, you add the fact that outside of the consumer goods world, the marketing function sometimes has a very clear and defined role. And sometimes it doesn’t.  

It also boils down to the responsibility of the CMO to actually earn the business chair by his or her business acumen. So you earn the seat at the table by your business knowledge and you keep your seat at the table from your deep understanding of your customer. And then you transcend the chair by the magic of your storytelling. Once you’re able to agree on the business strategy, the marketing objective, and then the magic of the function, hopefully it will help you transcend the role. 

You’ve mentioned it’s important to lead, not just from the front, but also from the middle and the back. Can you explain that to us again? 

During any given day, you need to have a flexible leadership approach because the situations in which you’re in actually change by the person you’re facing or by the meeting that you’re attending. In any job, you are going to have three areas that you control completely: the objective, the people, the budget. Those are the areas where you should lead from the front. It is what you say, how you say it, and it needs to be done because you totally own the outcome of that particular task or project, or strategy.  

Then there are parts, particularly when you move outside of the consumer good world, where once you earn the seat at the table, once you’ve established the credibility, people in the product office or engineering will want you to co-own the agenda with them. That’s what I call leading from the middle–where you’re sharing the objectives. You are there to clearly define who’s going to be doing what to whom, when do they interact and how you measure the overall impact of the effort individually and collectively. 

Leading by influencing is what’s going to determine your success as a business leader in the longterm.

And then the third part, which is the most interesting one and CMOs need to own, is that leading by influence those areas in which you are only indirectly responsible for but your voice (because you have the voice of the customer behind you) actually matters. And it matters a lot. That is how you keep the relationship with the CEO, CFO, with the head of product or the business unit head (depending on the business that you’re in). And that is actually, at the end of the day, the role you have in the organization. Some of the CEOs that came from the CMO chair will tell you that at the end of the day, leading by influencing is what’s going to determine your success as a business leader in the longterm. Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.