Marketing Leadership: Top 5 Traits of the Best Marketing Leaders

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Founder and CEO
CMOx®, The Fractional CMO Company

“As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

In the past few years, marketing has really taken a center spot of top leadership. With so much importance placed on the role of marketing leadership for company growth and stability, the top professionals need to be great at getting results and working with the other leaders on board. For companies that don’t need to hire a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), the gap in leadership can be noticeable.

If you are searching for ways to improve your marketing, then choosing the right leadership is important. A marketing leader will really help improve your efforts for powerful and cost-effective growth outcomes.

Here is what you want to look for when choosing a leader for your marketing team.

What is Marketing Leadership?

You might think that hiring a marketing professional is plenty. But, hiring a small team or sole professional undercuts your strategy. One professional can only get so much done. But a team without a leader is bound to be haphazard and lack a cohesive strategy.

What is leadership?

A leader is a person that gets everyone to buy-in to a specific vision. They are the cheerleader, taskmaster and rule keeper. Leaders show by example and also delegate tasks to keep the team balanced.

What does a marketing leader do?

When it comes to marketing, the leadership has a key role that involves company visibility and outreach. Marketing is in charge of attracting leads and cultivating them into new customers. Once the purchase occurs, marketing aligns with customer service to turn those customers into loyal brand advocates that will come back for future purchases and spread the word about the company.

A marketing leader is the one who helps plan out the new marketing strategy. This crucial part of the marketing plan aligns the goals and establishes the key metrics that measure the success rate. The marketing goals should align with the brand’s overarching goals for removing barriers to growth or stability. Great marketing isn’t about vanity metrics, like getting social media likes or ad click-throughs. It is about leads and generating new business.

A good marketing leader is going to oversee the marketing strategy implementation, keeping all the moving parts organized and cohesive. When the time comes, the marketing leader will pull together the analytics reports and be able to clearly display the value or shortcomings of the strategy.

A great marketing leader will be able to adapt to market trends and audiences, honing in on greater successes moving forward. They must be able to communicate with both the marketing team and other high-level leaders within the company.

Why is Marketing Leadership important?

Marketing leaders need to keep everyone in the loop, from the team to the other c-suite leaders and stakeholders. If everyone in the company isn’t on board with the branding direction, the message isn’t going to permeate every part of every department. You need the marketing messaging to align with the company’s in-person vibe or there will be a serious disconnect.

Marketing executives should also be able to prove the ROI (return on investment) in order to show where the company is making strides on par with the marketing budget. This doesn’t always translate directly into increased sales, since marketing can help with long-term growth goals – like improving brand image or increasing loyalty.

Top 5 Marketing Leadership Traits

What are the best marketing leadership skills to look for in a CMO? When you are hiring a marketing leader, you want to make sure they fit the bill. Such a marketing leader can come in the form of a CMO Consultant who is brought in to expertly lead strategy. Here are the key things you should be looking for.

Ownership & accountability

A leader should always take responsibility for their team and decision-making. They have to be fully committed if they expect their team to buy-in. The leader needs to be prepared to back good ideas and take accountability if they fall flat. A true leader won’t hide behind excuses or blame others when things go sideways.

Teamwork mindset

There is a big difference between people following orders and people participating in a team vision. A great marketing leader should be able to round up the group and get them stoked about the strategy moving forward. Good leaders know how to encourage their team. A leader should be able to get the best out of each person on the team and weave all of the parts together into a finished product.


Marketing executives should love data and operate with analytical reasoning. Marketing departments live and die by data. The leader has to understand the numbers and what they mean for the company on a larger scale. Formulating key marketing equations, like cost per acquisition (CPA) for gaining new leads or the cost per thousand (CPM) for ad impressions, is a skill set marketers need to have.

Results focused

Marketers aren’t there just to make things look and sound good. A marketing team needs to focus on specific goals outlined in the marketing strategy. The leader of the marketing team has to be the most focused on these benchmarks out of everyone. Getting results means key assumptions behind the strategy were correct. Failure means the marketing leader needs to go back to the data and rework the approach. Not all marketing efforts—campaigns, automation and strategies—are going to be wins. A marketing leader needs to know how to make changes to get those results consistently.

Agile, but stable

A huge part of getting results with digital marketing means being an agile marketing department. The marketing strategy needs to be able to change on a dime when it’s not working. It shouldn’t take forever to shift gears. BUT (and this is a HUGE but), a marketing leader also cannot chase every whim that pops into their head! Too much shifting focus and moving targets, and the team will look more like a cat chasing a laser pointer than a strategic, data-driven group of professionals. Agile marketing is still data-driven.

A marketing leader needs to be able to spot the difference between a great idea and a rabbit trail.

Marketing Leadership Roles

There are a number of professionals who might be leading the marketing team. They will all be working towards the same end, but the terms of their employment, their experience, and level of leadership skills may differ.

Marketing Managers

The marketing director will have oversight of the marketing team. They will be above the marketing managers and be more responsible for all aspects of the marketing department.

Marketing Director

The marketing director will have oversight of the marketing team. They will be above the marketing managers and be more responsible for all aspects of the marketing department.

Chief Marketing Officer

The head of marketing is often considered a c-suite leadership position and should have top-level marketing skills. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is in charge of the entire marketing department. The Marketing Director or Marketing Managers are going to be reporting to this top-level leader. PayScale reports CMOs to make around $174,000 per year on average, so it’s understandable that many companies struggle to hire them.

Interim CMO

If a company needs marketing leadership but is in-between CMOs, the interim CMO will fill in for a short time period. Sometimes this role is filled by a CMO hopeful who wants to be the permanent position holder. Sometimes it is held by a marketing manager or another c-suite leader. In most cases, the interim CMO is just there to hold down the fort and keep major mistakes from occurring until another CMO can be brought on.

Fractional CMO

When a company does not need a full-time CMO, a Fractional CMO is brought on. The Fractional CMO is well-versed with the company and leads the marketing department. But, the Fractional CMO performs the CMO role for more than one company. By splitting their time, this CMO won’t cost the company as much as a full-time CMO, thus helping their bottom line. Plus, the Fractional CMO has more experience with how other brands are approaching their marketing. This is a great option for small- and medium-sized businesses that just don’t have the robust marketing strategy that a full-time CMO salary would require.

Marketing Leadership Books

If you are looking into becoming a better marketing leader, there are a lot of resources out there. These books are great for marketers who are considering the next level of leadership. They can also offer some insight to someone who doesn’t fully understand the perspective of a marketing leader.

Here are a few of our favorite books on marketing leadership.

"Start With Why"

If you know “what” you do and “how” you do it, then you are only hitting the surface level. “Start with Why” explains that every great brand has a strong reason why they do what they do. Without this crucial understanding of why the brand will have a hard time differentiating itself from the competition.

If you want to watch a quick video on Simon Sinek explaining this concept, you can check out this Ted Talk.

"The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader"

For a practical and helpful guide, “The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader” offers a great resource. This book will help you increase your impact and deliver results for a more successful career in marketing with actionable tips. This is a great leadership book for marketers and will guide you through a number of helpful exercises.

"The Results Obsession"

The author of The Results Obsession: ROI-Focused Digital Strategies to Transform Your Marketing has over 30 years of marketing leadership knowledge that she pours into this book. This book covers choosing the right KPIs for measuring the success of your marketing campaigns. It also goes over how to focus on the right channels to best serve your goals.

Finding the right Marketing Leader

Companies who want a robust marketing strategy with high ROI will need to hire a great CMO. You can’t cut corners with a couple of creative professionals and think you will get the same kind of results. Marketing takes a lot of concerted effort from a team of professionals—even for small businesses.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend an annual fortune either.

Before you turn to LinkedIn in search of a CMO to fill a job position you really don’t have, take a moment to consider a CMO who takes on more than one company account. With a Fractional CMO in place, you can have your cake and eat it too. This part-time, high-level professional will offer the amount of marketing guidance your company needs and won’t spend half the day on low-level busywork while being paid a full-time salary.

You can find a Fractional CMO with all the top traits of a marketing leader—someone who knows how to get great results out of your marketing approach. You don’t have to overpay an overqualified professional, and you don’t have to neglect your marketing!

Talk to us today about what a Fractional CMO can do for your company.

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Casey S. Stanton is a marketing strategy expert and founder of CMOx®, the Fractional CMO company. For over 10 years Casey has been leading marketing strategy for 7 and 8 figure businesses in both digital and brick-and-mortar markets.

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Casey Slaughter Stanton

Casey S. Stanton is a marketing strategy expert and founder of CMOx®, the Fractional CMO company. For over 10 years Casey has been leading marketing strategy for 7 and 8 figure businesses in both digital and brick-and-mortar markets.

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