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The top qualities of a successful marketing leader

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We’ve seen all sorts of scenarios and an abundance of different situations in the past year. In all of these cases, the best brands in the eyes of the public were the ones showing compassion, empathy and care. In short, the most human.

You could say that behind every great brand there is a great team of marketing leaders aiming to push the envelope. But whilst anyone with the right skills could potentially become a marketing expert, it takes more than skill to be a great marketing leader. Otherwise, you may as well be one of the countless marketing gurus on the Internet, selling ‘fried air’ (to borrow a lovely expression from my fellow Italian compatriots) in exchange for your money.

However you want to think about it, you can spot a great marketing leader from miles away. Philip Schiller, Katie Evans, Michelle Asik, Chris Capossela – what do all these amazing people have in common? What is the secret to their success?

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Image credit: Mafalda Aleixo

Desire to learn

You’ll see a number of pieces out there listing all the top traits for a good marketing leader, and you can be certain that this one will be in all of them. Curiously, some decide to put it at the bottom. I don’t think so. The desire to learn and seek new knowledge at all times is what sets apart a skilled marketing leader from a great one.

A great marketing leader will read a lot, watch a lot, listen to podcasts a lot, and be genuinely interested in growing their knowledge on a daily basis. If it sounds like a huge investment of time, that’s because it is – but at the same time, it might not be something for you. Curiosity and desire for knowledge are two of the very few things that come straight from you and your being; things that no one else can ever teach you.

Human and compassionate

Just like no one can ever teach you to seek more knowledge all the time, it’s pretty hard to teach empathy and compassion. It is something you either have or you don’t… though you can hone it over time. I have grown to believe that storytelling is the best teacher of empathy there is; the more exposed to stories you are, the more empathic and compassionate you are likely to become.

This is not going to be true of everyone, but you can bet the best marketing leaders aren’t solely focused on profit and numbers. All of them will be deeply human and profoundly caring leaders, catering for their teams at all times, celebrating successes and always taking a step back when ego seems to knock at their doors. They will share credit with all the members of the team and be extremely passionate about the amazing work they do at all times. Sometimes even feeling privileged or lucky to have reached their position – even though there is little luck involved in becoming an influential leader.

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Image credit: Panagiotis Pagonis

Led by guts, but also data

However, it is that balance between heart and mind, that capability to discern gut feelings and practicality of a situation, which makes good leaders shine brighter. As much as I would love to live in an idealistic world, where deep feelings and connection count more than numbers, a great marketer must have an eye constantly on data to deliver the right results.

Though it is effective and even encouraged to follow one’s gut feelings when faced with a challenging situation, there are times in which following data and numbers just feels like the best choice. Marketers need to deliver impact and effectiveness after all, and a thorough technical knowledge of the market is crucial in achieving those.

Flexibility

It is likely that a plan needs to be changed at the last second. It is possible that a marketing strategy doesn’t entirely fit within a marketer’s beliefs. It is also common to find out that things don’t always go according to plans. So we pivot.

The best marketers are masters of pivoting and adapting and reshaping their process. They don’t remain anchored to one resolution, and in fact tend to pursue many, experimenting and learning more as they go. Flexibility is an essential trait of successful marketers, and by now you can easily guess why.

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Image credit: Liverpool FC

Focus on driving change

There was a time in which selling a product was more important than selling some sort of purpose. Those times are seemingly long gone. Most larger brands nowadays are expected to deliver not only great products, but positive impact as well. Consumers expect brands and marketers to work for a greater good, in the best interest of all the communities on this planet.

A great marketer must be focused on driving change and leaving a positive mark on this world. Brands nowadays have the power to change so much, and this power is entirely in the hands of the best marketing leaders out there. Generating profits is certainly the ultimate goal of any business out there – but today, brands are about so much more than that. They are about changing the present for a better future.

An eye on the future

All of the amazing and highly desirable traits above convey into this last one somehow: a marketer should use their knowledge, humanity, passion and expertise to keep a constant eye on the future. Marketers are expected to be pioneers of change, leaders of thought and positive role models all throughout. It is them who share the burden (and possibly honour) to shape a better future for us all.

Whereas this was once in the hands of politicians alone, we have now seen the power and influence that brands can have on consumers, and how they can shape public opinion. The best marketers are the ones who have bright ambitions for the future, can anticipate trends and use them to build a better industry. And ultimately, a better world for all the future generations of consumers.


Header image: Jeremy Meek

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