15 essential qualities every great marketing leader should have

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15 essential qualities every great marketing leader should have

As marketing needs expand by the year, an abundance of leadership roles, from SEO specialists to social media moguls, emerge. Anyone can be named as a manager, but what makes a great leader, particularly in the marketing sphere?

15 Marketing Professionals AdAge

We asked the members of Ad Age Collective to share some necessary attributes for an effective marketing leader. Below, they share 15 characteristics that are vital to the marketing world, and how you can incorporate these attributes into your own leadership style.

1. A deep understanding of the customer

Marketing leaders who understand their avatar inside and out can effectively attract, convert and retain the perfect customer. Understanding current consumer behaviors and motivations while forecasting how future economic, social and tech trends will impact them is critical. Unlimited funds, incredible products, beautifully-designed stores and highly-optimized funnels won’t matter without it. – Maxwell Finn, Unicorn Innovations

2. Audience advocacy

A great marketing leader needs to be a champion for those their brand serves. We’ve heard of servant leaders — now it’s time for “servant marketers.” To do this, one must not only understand customers’ needs, but also offer solutions that are in their best interest over those in the interest of the bottom line. Consumers have many options. If your marketing isn’t a concierge service, you’ll lose them. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

3. Adaptability

To be a great leader in the marketing space, you have to be forward-thinking and a visionary, but most importantly you have to be adaptable and able to pivot strategy on a dime. While fast-changing strategic plans are needed, you need to be very stable financially and operationally and not allow the ebbs and flows of the business or clients affect the employees — they should be shielded from all. – Jessica Hawthorne-CastroHawthorne Advertising

4. Curiosity

The best leaders I know ask more than they answer. They wonder why, let their minds wander at times and plunge into unfamiliar topics and experiences with a sense of wonder and humility. They’re okay not knowing everything. They’re comfortable with ambiguity. In short, they understand curiosity leads to growth and that gives them the courage to lead people down uncharted roads toward opportunity. – Todd Morgano, Falls Communications

5. Comfort with the uncomfortable

Marketing is an inherently disorientating field. One minute one platform is king, the next minute your tried-and-true tactics no longer work and you have to start from scratch. This can prove stressful for your team, but a stellar marketing leader knows how to steady the ship and remind their team to focus on the creativity that comes with the territory as a source of inspiration and motivation. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

6. Entrepreneurial spirit

New opportunities, data and platforms are constantly disrupting the marketing space. Customer behavior adapts to these changes in real-time. Given that, great leaders need to be open-minded, always looking for better ways to drive results. Success comes from unique approaches uncovered through innate curiosity and problem-solving, with a comfort for risk and testing boundaries. – Kerry Curran, Catalyst

7. Vision

Leaders need to know where the industry is headed and what their team needs to do to be successful. It requires creative thinking and a commitment to innovation. The way people consume information has evolved significantly, and organizations need to find ways to have more relevant conversations with them. Leaders need to point their teams in the right direction and set priorities. – Kevin Dean, Experian

8. Tech savvy

While the fundamentals of marketing remain the same, technology underpins marketing like never before. Today’s marketing leaders to be comfortable in knowing how to leverage technology to solve core marketing challenges, from making their team more efficient to helping drive measurable impact for their organizations. – Amrita Gurney, CrowdRiff

9. The ability to tap into gut feelings

Marketers must balance the quantifiable with a feeling. Some things just feel right, yet are difficult to put into a financial model. While marketers will spend time in performance marketing tweaking programs for incremental improvement, they must also spend time making buyers care. Making people care is a creative challenge that requires buy-in from financially-motivated internal stakeholders. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

10. Drama

Many emphasize being steady, measured and credible in leadership. In marketing, however, given the importance of creativity, impact and an “out-of-the-ordinary” approach to the world, drama has an important place. Not negative drama, but rather a theatrical and emotional representation of ideas, concepts and the importance of what we do. Don’t just go to the meeting — take the stage! – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency

11. An analytical mindset

It’s cliché, but marketing has truly become a sophisticated dance between art and science where data reigns supreme. With an overabundance of information being generated, marketing heads need to not only understand the four Ps, but also be well-versed in data analysis so they can figure out how to gracefully marry the left and right brain to build creative yet performance-first based campaigns. – Kurt Kaufer, Ad Results Media

12. Focus

As a leader, having all this innovation at your fingertips is generally a great thing. However, when you, or your team, start to chase those new trends and get caught up in all the noise, you can lose focus on your vision. It’s critical to think long term, develop a vision and stick to it. Don’t get sidetracked by short-term “shiny objects.” – Oz Etzioni, Clinch

13. The ability to understand ROI

Marketing is the most personal form of communication between a brand and a consumer. Success is defined by being adaptable to technological advances like AI and automation. It’s critical to strip away the jargon and hype around technology to understand what’s really driving ROI. Marketers must do homework, test options and make sure technology stacks translate to business value. – Ricky Ray Butler, Branded Entertainment Network

14. Left-brain and right-brain thinking

Marketing leaders must have the ability to switch from right-brain to left-brain thinking seamlessly. Great content is essential to advertising and that is generally a right-brain activity built on empathy and customer understanding. However, marketing is also a numerically-driven science that benefits from data-driven optimization. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

15. An open mind and a hunger to learn

Finding just one attribute is challenging. If I had to share one it would be an open mind and a hunger to continue to learn. Marketing is continuously evolving, new technologies come into play and different generations sway what is relevant. Continuing to learn about what makes consumers tick and testing new ideas can help to expand your knowledge and, ultimately, the success of campaigns. – Issa Sawabini, Fuse

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