5 Must-Have Skills of Successful Marketing Leaders

There are few honors greater than the call to lead others. I’ve had the privilege of leading a team of marketing professionals for twelve years now, the last eight of which have come at the helm of Fidelitas Development. Often in marketing, professionals can be summoned into leadership roles by an organization’s “next man or woman up” philosophy, where internal promotions supersede outside hires nine times out of ten.

I’m a big believer in promoting from within, but organizations focused on execution often fail to supply the necessary leadership training to help marketing leaders step into their new roles. Here are some key skill sets that marketing leaders of all ages and experience levels should continue to hone today and in their future positions:


Communication is taken for granted in the era of social media, email, and text messages. Internally, communication has been a focal point at Fidelitas this year. Why is it seemingly harder to communicate with our peers and teams now than ever before?

For many in our industry, this comes down to the constant prioritization of “urgent”- almost everything is urgent nowadays. This means that communication tends to be less thought-out and more rushed. On the flip side, when it comes to writing, it seems that many new college grads in our industry don’t have a firm grasp of how to communicate outside of a 140-character tweet or snap. Marketing leaders should continue to sharpen their own writing skill sets as well as that of their teams. One secret to getting your team to become stronger writers: get them to read more. The viewpoint of we are what we consume extends to reading and writing.

Face-to-face communication appears to be a lost art. I can’t count the number of times that someone, in hopes of avoiding conflict, sent a lengthy email instead of simply setting up a time to discuss things face-to-face. Whether you’re selling, trying to land a job, or trying to right a wrong, as a marketing leader you must leverage face-to-face communication to reach the best possible outcome for the conversation.

One last rant- in the era where students are trained to exceed minimum word counts on assignments, marketing leaders must learn to make their points more concisely. If the point can be made in ten words, there’s no point in extending the thought to twenty.

Action Steps: Try to read an extra article each day and extra book each month. Then, take an extra moment before clicking “send” to make sure that your communications are both effective and efficient- not to mention grammatically correct.

Strategic Planning

Marketing leaders will always get more out of their teams if they can answer the “why” before they communicate the “how” with their teams. This starts at the top. Marketing Leaders must work to communicate the goals of C-Level leadership, and their organizations at large, with their teams. If a marketing team understands where the organization as a whole is trying to go, they’ll be better suited to fulfill their individual roles successfully.Team Meeting Around Desk

However, before marketing leaders can communicate the organization’s goals to their internal and external teams, they must work to better define them through strategic planning. Measurable objectives, tasks, and timelines must be communicated and agreed upon by both marketing leaders and their teams.

Action Steps: Construct shareable plans for your team that serve as a guideline and timelines. Have all key players sign off on the plan up front and clear up any outstanding questions before the work begins in earnest.


Everyone wants to claim credit when a brand succeeds- there’s back-slapping, high-fiving, and case study development everywhere you look. However when times are tough, too often the only motion you see is finger-pointing and the only sound emitting from the marketing department is crickets. Instead of looking for the reason something went wrong, it seems that most people search for excuses.

This is what separates great marketing leaders from the rest. Great marketing leaders must work to show accountability for the work produced by their teams. In turn, they’ll achieve greater buy-in on future campaigns. This goes for both agencies and in-house teams. Most of the time poor results are a result of issues on both sides of the agency-client relationship.

Action Steps: Agree on trackable measures for campaigns and projects ahead of time, and then review them together during and following the campaign. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, marketing leaders should encourage their teams to bring new ideas to the table with thoughts on how to improve the performance of the next campaign. Every team member should be able to answer the “what did we learn here?” question. Remember- when it comes to accountability, if it’s not in writing, it was never a goal in the first place.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence might be the most underrated quality of great marketing leaders. Some may argue that a high EQ is like height- you’re either born with it, or you’re not. I would counter that – while EQ development may come easier for some, it’s a skill that all marketing leaders need to develop. A higher EQ allows teams to better connect leading to improved professional relationships and communication.



Higher levels of Emotional Intelligence also lead to improved morale, less employee-turnover, and improved employee engagement- all of which contribute to the organization’s bottom line. Unfortunately, a low EQ is one of the most dangerous leadership challenges a team can face. A leader’s low EQ will have a trickle-down effect on the entire team’s performance across multiple facets- including morale, communication, and accountability.

Action Steps: Studies show that we can improve our EQ by as much as 40%. Work to understand how your team’s feelings will be impacted by your words and actions. Then consider how you can manage your temper to avoid self-destructive behavior.


Servant Leadership

One question that is asked in every Fidelitas interview process, regardless of position, is what servant leadership means to the candidate. Servant Leadership, the process of placing the goals and priorities of others ahead of one’s own, isn’t an intangible skill set. Rather, Servant Leadership is a mindset and conscious decision that leaders make to approach their position of authority as a mandate to serve their direct reports instead of a mandate to shout orders from above. Servant Leadership goes hand-in-hand with a high EQ, and marketing leaders that practice Servant Leadership get far more out of their teams than leaders that don’t.

Action Step: Consider how you might serve your team better. Invest time to build a relationship with your team members- both internal and external. If you can’t name something that’s important to each of your team members, that’s a surefire sign that you need to invest more time into them.

For more insights on leadership, marketing and communication contact Fidelitas Development today.

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