Dec 19, 2023

Is Authentic Leadership the Key for B2B Tech Marketing Leaders in 2024?

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer


For many B2B tech companies, the theme of the past year or so has been instability and uncertainty. 

Following the collapse of Silicon Valley bank in March, alongside concerns of a global recession looming for much of the year, the tech industry has been under unprecedented strain in 2023. 

This has put a great deal of pressure on marketers to deliver short-term results and prove their value to the company, as budgets have been cut and sales have slowed down.  

With that in mind, the need for strong, authentic leadership in marketing departments will be hugely important for B2B tech companies in 2024. 

Additionally, leadership and other soft skills are also becoming increasingly valuable for marketers at all levels of their organisations, as well as those looking for new roles. 

In this episode, Pavey Purewal joins us to share her advice to help marketers become better leaders, accelerate their personal development, and overcome some of the most prominent challenges within the B2B tech sector today. 

Today’s Guest

Who they are: Pavey Purewal, executive coach and former CMO. 

A bit of background: Pavey has worked in B2B tech marketing throughout her entire 25-year career. In that time, she’s worked with global brands like Oracle and VMware, as well as for high-growth start-ups in Silicon Valley. She now helps business leaders overcome personal and professional challenges as an executive coach. 

Where you can find Pavey:

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

Why confidence is one of the most critical skills in B2B tech marketing right now (and how to gain it)

Whether you’re dealing with rising tension with your sales team, increasing scrutiny from the C-suite, or even the threat of redundancy, B2B tech marketers are facing a growing list of challenges right now. 

With that in mind, there’s never been a better time to work on your own personal development, cultivating skills that can help manage such high pressure. 

And through her 25 years of working in the B2B tech sector, Pavey Purewal believes that building confidence is one of the most important skills for marketers today. 

Why is that? 

Well, when discussing the best ways for B2B tech marketers to handle that ever-increasing list of challenges, she explained: 

“What it really comes down to, whether you’re in a job or you’re in the market for a new job, is working on confidence.”

Pavey has a great deal of experience working with marketers, both in-house and as an executive coach. In doing so, she’s found that building confidence is critical for B2B tech marketers at all stages of their careers. Confidence is vital in situations like interviewing for new roles as well as picking yourself back up after being made redundant. 

Additionally, confidence is essential to maintaining a positive working relationship with the sales team and preventing outside influences from changing the direction of marketing. Conversely, a lack of confidence can lead to those existing challenges becoming harder to deal with, especially in today’s turbulent B2B tech market. 

But how do you build confidence in practical terms? As an experienced executive coach, Pavey had the following advice:

Recognise your ‘inner critic’ and actively practice ignoring them 

Pavey said, “First of all, [marketers need to] get honest with themselves about where they’re at. Not just the masks they’re putting on for everybody else, but how are they really feeling behind the scenes?” 

“And if they’re feeling insecure, figure out why. So that little nagging voice that starts telling you, ‘don’t go for that role, that’s a bit above you. Are you sure you’re going to go for that? Play it safe, stay small, keep your head down.’ All that negativity is coming from an inner critic or inner saboteur.”

There’s complex psychology behind this concept that Pavey explores in more detail with her executive coaching clients. But it’s a useful thing to be aware of for everyone in the workplace, especially for marketers who sometimes have to shout louder than anyone else to be heard.  

“Your inner critic often runs out in front in difficult situations,” said Pavey. “And your best self, your authentic self, is put in the back seat. And if you do that too much, just like muscle memory, the inner critic will come out in any type of adversity, even for daily pressures of an everyday situation where you don’t want your inner critic to come out.”

Pavey highlighted the importance of being honest with yourself about where that inner critic comes from and recognising it as no more than an internal “shield” or a story you’ve become too used to telling yourself in difficult scenarios.

She continued, “Then you can figure out that instead of going into auto-pilot and listening to that story, I’m going to say, ‘no, that’s not true. I’m going to do things differently.’ And then you start building new muscles and firing new neurons. If you don’t feel good enough, find what’s going to get you to a place of saying, ‘I am confident, and I do feel like I can do this.’”

“I think every marketing leader really wants to be more creative and innovative. We’re in tech; that’s the lifeblood of the industry. But you’re not going to have big ideas and be wildly creative if you’re feeling insecure or small. So it’s all about flipping the script internally.”

What other characteristics do B2B tech marketing leaders need in 2024? 

Going back to the previous point, another benefit of developing your self-confidence in the workplace is that it will help you improve as a leader. 

Whether you’re a junior or mid-level marketer aiming to graduate into a leadership position or an established marketing leader looking to improve, this kind of personal development is equally important. 

Pavey highlighted some characteristics that are particularly valuable for B2B tech marketing leaders to focus on heading into 2024. For example:

  • Seeing the big picture and recognising trends in the rest of the market 
  • Understanding your own value in the company
  • Being prepared to take risks 
  • Being strategic
  • Being humble 
  • Being collaborative. 

Actively building trust and empathy 

Trust and empathy are crucial soft skills for all marketers today, but especially for those in positions of leadership. 

Pavey said, “Leadership should be about making people feel like it’s a safe environment, like I’ve got your back. You have to understand where people are coming from and what’s going on with them outside of work.”

Pavey also advised that you should think about the type of leadership you appreciate and work hard to be able to deliver that yourself for the people you work with. 

“Invest in yourself to become the leader that you want to show up as.” 

Being present and authentic 

“A lot of leaders aspire to be more present,” said Pavey. “A lot of people in HR, in terms of company values, will talk about being present and being authentic, but people don’t necessarily know how to be present and authentic.” 

This is especially important when considering the recent issues facing the B2B tech sector, such as mass layoffs and financial instability. 

Pavey rightly pointed out that being present is an essential skill today because so many people are currently ruminating over past mistakes or worrying about the future.

“It’s hard to not worry about the past or be anxious about the future and truly be in the present when you’ve got so many pressures going on,” said Pavey. “So a lot of what I do is get people to be in flow and figure out how to stay present. Otherwise, you’re really no good to anyone. You’re doing a half-ass job.” 

“And so I think being present is a huge theme in the industry right now, not just in tech but across the board in business leadership.”

How to develop more authenticity and become a stronger B2B tech marketing leader 

Perhaps one of the most beneficial characteristics for a marketing leader is authenticity. In today’s workplace, being your authentic self could be the difference between good and great leadership. 

Most people have traditionally felt the need to force themselves to fit in at work, adapting their personality, way of speaking, and even appearance to match the company culture. But a range of recent trends, both in and outside of the workplace, have placed authenticity as a much higher priority. 

Pavey said, “We spend so much of our corporate careers with a mask on, thinking we need to fit in. And then, all of a sudden, we’re too far away from ourselves to even recognise ourselves, let alone to actually turn up as that.”

“When you take off the mask, there’s only one you that’s there. It’s the real you—the you that doesn’t worry too much, isn’t too cautious, and isn’t playing it small. You’re confident, you’re present, and you’ve got great ideas. You’re a good communicator. You don’t worry about the pressures of the situation; you can just turn up as the human being that you are. And that’s it. You should just be you.”

“In many of our minds, that became a blueprint, and you just started mimicking and imitating what you thought was good leadership. But if it’s not authentic, it’s not your leadership style, so it’s never actually going to work for you.”

Pavey noted that the introduction of younger generations into the workplace is one of those trends driving the growing appreciation of authenticity in business.

She said, “I coach a lot of people that are in their 30s, and they don’t have that mentality. They say, ‘I’m turning up as me, and it’s going to be good enough. This is who I am.’ And it’s non-negotiable. But a lot of the issues I see with slightly older generations are that they have to undo a lot of the learned behaviour of what they think they need to do to fit in.”

“And it’s much worse for women, because in B2B tech, women are fitting into a male-dominated area. So they’re trying to act more like men, and that’s never going to work for women either.”

In terms of overcoming this need to adjust your personality to fit in at work, Pavey suggested that becoming comfortable with feeling vulnerable is an important first step.

“It requires vulnerability,” she said. “People struggle with that in the workplace. When I ask people what they think vulnerability is, they’ll say weakness. But it’s not. It’s about being willing and open enough to take off that mask and show the real you. This is who I really am. You might not like it, but then again, I’m not trying to please you. So this is me.”

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. More insights into the challenges that have been impacting the B2B tech sector over the past year, and the knock-on effect still being felt today.
  2. Why Pavey insists that 2024 is not the time to “play it safe” for B2B tech marketers.
  3. Helpful advice for balancing all aspects of a marketing role, including day-to-day KPIs, bigger picture strategy, personal development, and career progression.
  4. Tips for maintaining a healthy relationship between marketing and sales, even through increasing pressure to deliver short-term results.