• Todd Wilms

The New World of Fractional Leadership

Many organizations are beginning to use fractional help in their organization. While leaders have always brought in subject matter experts to do project work, what is new is that leaders are now bringing in C-Suite executives and organizational leaders to help – but on a part-time basis.

The New Problem

We all know the business model has shifted. The process, the speed, the expectations of how to create, build, and grow a business has changed completely over the last 10 years. No organization or division has been immune to this radical shift. What you needed from your Finance team is more complex than what you needed a few years ago. Same with Sales, or Engineering, or your labor force. The advanced demands on your teams has caused a real problem for business leaders. It is best summed up with this mantra: What got you here today, won’t get you there tomorrow. Today may be about building awareness in the marketplace – just letting people know you exist. Tomorrow, it may be a strong push to drive revenue and generate leads. Today may be hoping you win a customer that your Services team can implement. Tomorrow, it may be a tidal wave of new customers that are now backlogged to start using your product.

The Old Solution

As a challenge would arise in an organization, the old model of searching for, and then hiring, an executive might take months to find them and get them up to speed. This caused long delays in being able to effectively address your business challenges. How often do you find yourself saying “just wait until we get our new ______ is here”? But you can no longer wait. Customers won’t. Your partners and suppliers wont. Your employees wont.

Even when you do get that person up to speed, they inevitably have a short valuable window to make their impact to the business, but then you outgrow them. Marketing, in particular, is a great example of this.

The 18-month CMO Tenure

The popular statistic is the 18-month average tenure for a CMO. For larger or more stable organizations this can be 2-3 year. This then means for smaller, more entrepreneurial organizations, the tenure can be even less. If it takes you even 3 or 4 months to get someone new in place, but you are changing them every 12 months, what does that disruption look like for your business?

For most Marketing leaders, they can do most things well; They have run the disciplines across the marketing organization. But every marketer has a bias toward a specific discipline – growth, performance, brand, corporate, influencer, administrative, etc. If you need to make a radical shift, it often means you are now disposing of your CMO.

Fractional Leaders

Leaders find that more and more often they need specific talent for a short duration or for only a fraction of the time. The dynamic is shifting to focus on leaders who can bring their expertise to an organization, but not be constrained by being a full-time employee.

Fractional CMOs can bring their own expertise and also a network of talent and leadership with them to solve business problems and accelerate growth. This can be over a single project or over a longer period of time. Most importantly, it affords the founder the opportunity to focus leaders into key areas of the business.

For many, this model is a natural evolution. We outsource just about everything today as we find best-in-class solutions to help us bring down costs or just be more convenient. We apply these solutions just when we need them - from meal delivery to transportation to an in-home massage – all with the click of a button.

The idea of fractional leadership still has some obstacles to address for many business leaders who struggle with the idea of “temporary leadership.”


With leadership turnover, comes an impact to your business or culture. Every new leader who replaces the prior one causes some churn, some issue. It is just like skipping a meal – you can do it once and no big deal. But over time it is unhealthy. Same here – making a change is fine, but a revolving door of leaders sends a very bad message to your organization.


I so seldom get to use this word! It is speed, agility, alacrity. If your business needs to focus in a whole new area and do it quickly, do you have the right leader in place to make that quick new move? Do you need pivot your thinking into a new market or toward a new customer or in a new way? Organizations are more frequently redirecting their efforts and need to scale the business in a new direction. This often causes issue with your current leader who may not be wired for this change.


Many organizations are looking for the best leader to help them grow and thrive. Often a full-time price tag for that best CMO is out of their range. Many CMOs also realize that they may not be fully engaged at an organization as they grow. Finding that fractional best-in-class leader is often the perfect match to keep the marketer engaged and to keep the costs manageable.

Fractional leadership may not be for everyone, but this is quickly moving from the exception to being the new rule. Fractional leaders can help organizations overcome obstacles and adjust to market demands, while providing valuable leadership and business acumen into an organization.

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