Sharpening Strategic Leadership Skills

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Beyond just executing campaigns and analysing metrics, marketers are increasingly expected to demonstrate strategic leadership skills.

Strategic leadership skills are indispensable for marketers in today’s complex business environment. By embracing strategic thinking, fostering innovation, aligning with business objectives, and driving organisational growth, marketers can elevate their impact and drive tangible results for their employers.

The CIM Marketing Leadership Programme is a postgraduate-level qualification focused on giving Marketers the opportunity to sharpen their strategic Leadership skills. Veronica caught up with Chantelle Doughty, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Thirteen Group, who has just graduated with distinction for this top-level CIM qualification in Marketing Leadership, to ask her about her career journey to date and why she took the step to study this particular qualification.

Did you always envisage a career in marketing?

I studied Business Management at University, but early on, I realised how much more I enjoyed the marketing modules. So, I elected to take as many as I could and focused on finding a marketing role for my ‘Year in Industry,’ which I spent working on websites at IBM in Basingstoke.

What has been your career path so far?

It’s been quite the ride from high-end luxury retail to social care and social housing! I started off in FMCG before quickly moving into direct-to-customer retail marketing, spending three wonderful years at Fenwick in Newcastle. I then moved to Dubai, where I worked for Harvey Nichols, before moving to head up the marketing team for Bloomingdales – both franchises in the Middle East. I absolutely loved retail and have a penchant for department stores. When I returned to the UK for personal reasons, I joined my in-law’s social care business, taking on a business development and operations role before moving back to core marketing and communications at Thirteen Group, where I have been for the last four-plus years.

What do you enjoy most about working in marketing?

The variety mainly…you get to work with all areas of the business, using creative ideas to drive strategy. Marketing covers so many disciplines and skills, and you can wear a different hat every day. You can start off the morning by analysing data, trends, and budgets, and by the afternoon, you can be shooting a campaign with customers or briefing on creative work; it never gets boring!

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in building your career?

Moving away from family and friends for the right opportunities has been difficult when I haven’t found the right role locally and, more recently, balancing starting a family with still wanting to progress professionally. I have had to make personal decisions that have slowed down my career progression. It can be challenging, and I’ve had lots of conversations with colleagues about ‘can we have it all?’!

What was the trigger to start the CIM Marketing Leadership Programme?

I’ve completed quite a few of the CIM shorter courses over the years and have always benefited from them. I wanted to gain a professional qualification at a more senior level and work towards Chartered status. I applied for support through Thirteen’s personal development fund and was lucky enough to be granted funding and flexible working for study. The timing wasn’t great; I got approval when I was pregnant, so I started studying whilst on maternity leave, completing the Level 7 programme whilst returning to work and adjusting to being a first-time Mammy! You can’t pass these opportunities by, and I’m so grateful. nesma (who I studied with) is fantastic and was incredibly supportive and flexible.

What do you do differently now?

I have a much deeper understanding of the wider challenges and disruption businesses face. The programme is focused on making real-life data-driven strategic recommendations. I feel more confident in assessing the environment, developing strategies and seeking opportunities in times of change, particularly in the volatile social housing market, which faces extreme external pressures and scrutiny.

What are your future career aspirations?

Marketing as a discipline is continually evolving with new channels and skills required to reach new audiences. I’d like to keep my skills up-to-date and relevant and develop into more strategic leadership roles.

How do you unwind outside of work?

Mainly spending time with my wonderful two-year-old little girl (although I couldn’t describe managing a toddler as unwinding!) alongside family and close friends. I love food, so cooking and eating out, and I’m trying to factor in some head space with yoga and a little running. I love spending time in the countryside and am lucky to have North Yorkshire on my doorstep.

And finally, are there any business accounts/podcasts you would recommend?

I read Mums in Marketing online for both advice and comedy value! It’s a great community of like-minded Mum’s supporting each other on all things marketing and life in general.

This qualification takes approximately 18 months to complete and focuses on applying strategic thinking to facilitate and implement change at board level. After completing this postgraduate marketing qualification, you can utilise the designated letter ‘DipM’ after your name. The course can also be used to work towards a Master’s or MBA qualification.

Want to find out more? Contact Veronica Swindale at