6 Traits of Successful Marketing Leadership

Doing marketing is not the same as leading marketing. A memorable campaign, an emotional ad, or an inspiring video are all great examples of doing marketing well. But true marketing success requires something else: bold marketing leadership.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes a great marketing leader and identify some of the key traits successful marketing leaders possess.

What is Marketing Leadership?

The best way to demonstrate this is with an example. Take the Playstation. Today it’s the best-selling console in the world. But when Nintendo pioneered the gaming market back in the 80s, Sony’s leadership team were against the idea. It took years for Ken Kutaragi – then a young executive at Sony who later became CEO – to persuade his bosses that gaming was a customer need that was changing the market – and as such, a huge opportunity for the company. Without his leadership, the Playstation might not even exist today.

Or take Netflix. Today they’re famous for revolutionising TV streaming and their app is a staple in most homes. But did you know they started out as a DVD-by-mail service back in the late 90s and were close to being bought by video store giant, Blockbuster?

Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph – co-founders of Netflix – understood that the video and DVD market was on its way out. Gradually, they phased in their streaming service – first only with old films and TV shows, then with original content. This was a bold move, one that Blockbuster CEO John Antioco didn’t believe in or commit to. Compare the outcomes: in 2010, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy. While in 2019, Netflix’s original film Roma won 3 Oscars. Without their bold and visionary leadership, Netflix would not be the household name it is today.

The point is…marketing leadership is a lot more than doing. A marketing leader lays out a vision, one that is innovative and bold, and persuades stakeholders of the long-term opportunity and value of that vision.

Why is Marketing Leadership Important?

An innovative marketing leader with a bold vision has the potential to transform a company into a market-leading global force. That’s why leadership skills are important. But marketing leaders are also the glue that holds everything together: the marketing strategy and its objectives, the team that executes it, communicating progress with the CEO and other stakeholders, as well as coming up with new, innovative solutions and identifying new opportunities in the market.

Without good leadership, a marketing strategy has no captain and is doomed to fail. This sounds dramatic, but without proper leadership your team won’t have the drive or purpose to fulfill the company’s marketing goals. Studies have shown that companies with high employee engagement are 22% more profitable.

What are the 5 P’s of leadership?

Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few core principles that are common among them:

1. Personal attributes

Personal attributes refer to an individual’s personality, skills, and characteristics. A great leader will have 3 key attributes: respect, empathy, and communication. 

  • Respect. A leader should respect their team, they should listen to any suggestions or complaints their time might have.
  • Empathy. Empathy is an important personal attribute for a leader to have. It will allow you to understand what your team is feeling, and why they may not be performing at their best.
  • Communication. They need to be able to communicate effectively with the team. Miscommunication can cause mistakes and problems within the team.

2. Position 

Are you using your position of power to positively impact those around you? As a leader, you’re in a prime position to help those on your team, and are often in a position where you will have information that they do not. This could be information about the company or who to contact to help your team achieve their goals.

For example, someone on your team might want to develop their skills. So, you use your position to put them into contact with someone who is able to help them develop this skill. 

3. Purpose 

A leader should give their team a purpose, something to drive them to achieve the company’s goals. You should be able to rally your team around this purpose, which will in turn inspire them to do better.

Only 33% of employees report feeling engaged. This isn’t enough. It’s a marketing leader’s job to ensure employees are motivated and filled with purpose.

4. Processes

A great leader will have a set of processes that their team will follow. These processes could be about the results they are expecting, team performance, and strategy for the team. These processes will change over time, so a capable leader should be able to adapt. 

5. Product

Leaders also have targets to meet, and you will be assessed by the overall performance of your team. If you meet these targets then it’s likely you have achieved the 4 other P’s listed.

Marketing Leadership Roles

There are 3 main marketing leadership roles. They will all be working towards the same end, but the difference is in their experience levels, skill set, and most importantly, leadership qualities.

Marketing Director

A marketing director is responsible for handling the company’s marketing strategy. They are also responsible for the overall branding and image of the company. A Marketing Director offers leadership to the marketing department.

Read more about what is involved in being a Marketing Director here.


CMO stands for Chief Marketing Officer. They are a corporate level executive, and their responsibilities include:

  • Increasing sales with a marketing plan
  • Helping the company gain a competitive advantage 
  • Determining a strategy for the future of the company

Part-Time CMO

A part-time CMO is also known as a fractional CMO. They have the same responsibilities as a CMO, but only part-time. This can allow you to allocate more money elsewhere and still have someone come in with the experience, expertise and qualities of a full-time CMO.

Top 6 marketing leadership traits

Becoming a great marketing leader takes time and practice. However, there are some traits that should be weighted more heavily than others. These are the 6 traits that all successful marketing leaders have:


As a marketing leader, one of the most important skills you can develop is accountability. Being accountable means being responsible for your own actions and decisions, and taking ownership of the results, good or bad. It’s about setting the example for your team and holding yourself and others accountable for meeting objectives.

When you’re accountable, you’re more likely to focus on solutions rather than blame, and more likely to achieve success in the long run. Your team will also have greater trust in you as a leader if they know you’re accountable for your own actions. In today’s competitive business landscape, developing a culture of accountability is essential for any marketing organization that wants to succeed.

Customer-centric marketing leadership

This means understanding the needs and wants of your target market and tailoring your offerings to meet those needs. It also means making sure that your marketing efforts are focused on attracting and retaining customers.

Being customer-centric is an important skill for marketing leaders because it helps them ensure that their team is always focused on creating value for the customer. By being customer-centric, you can be confident that your marketing efforts will be more effective and that your business will be more successful.

Drive business transformation

In today’s business world, change is the only constant. To be successful, businesses must continually adapt to the ever-changing landscape. This requires strong leadership skills, and nowhere is this more important than in the field of marketing.

As the face of the company, marketing leaders must be able to drive change and keep up with the latest trends. They need to be able to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. Additionally, they must be able to inspire others and build a strong team that can execute their vision.

Great team builders

A successful marketing team needs to be able to work together effectively to brainstorm ideas, develop strategies, and execute campaigns. Great marketing leaders are able to bring out the best in their team members and help them to work together towards a common goal. They understand the importance of communication and collaboration, and they know how to create an environment where everyone can contribute their best ideas.

Mentors and motivators

Few things are more frustrating than watching a talented individual squander their potential. As a marketing leader, one of the best things you can do for your team is to help them reach their full potential. One way to do this is by serving as a mentor.

A mentor is someone who provides guidance, support, and advice to help another person grow and develop. By taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with your team, you can help them overcome challenges, reach their goals, and become better marketers.

In addition, mentorship can also help to build trust and strengthen relationships within your team. Ultimately, being a mentor is an important leadership skill that can have a positive impact on both individual performance and team morale.

Agile, but focused marketing leadership

Any successful marketing leader will tell you that being agile is essential to success in today’s rapidly changing landscape. The ability to rapidly adapt to new market conditions, seize new opportunities, and change course when necessary is a critical skill for any marketing leader. This is because the world of marketing is constantly evolving, with new technologies, platforms, and strategies emerging all the time.

To be successful, marketing leaders must be able to embrace change and adapt their approach on the fly. Those who are not agile enough to keep up with the pace of change will quickly find themselves falling behind. In today’s competitive landscape, agility is a key differentiator for marketing leaders. Those who can master this important skill will be well-positioned for success.

Hire a Marketing Leader and Transform Your Business

If you’re lacking senior marketing leadership in your executive team, or simply need an external set of eyes to help you scale your marketing efforts in line with your business objectives, then we can help.

Leadership Services provides part-time Marketing Directors and CMOs – with a minimum of 10 years’ board-level experience and a proven track record of success – to support businesses’ in their short- and long-term goals.

Leadership Services works on a flexible basis, without any long-term fixed contracts, and at a fraction of the cost of employing a full-time Senior Director.

Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you find the right marketing leader for your company.

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