Good to Great: Leadership Styles, Qualities and Skills in Marketers

During my years as an employee, and now consultant, I’ve seen a lot of leadership styles, qualities and skills in marketing. More importantly, the outcomes of these leaders have displayed stark differences.

“Why?” I’ve wondered. While researching my recent column for Target Marketing, I realized the difference is often found in neuroscience. 

In my experience, some people have what it takes to be a leader. And some—dare I say most—aren’t wired in a way that will make them successful leaders.

There are two points of reference for my thoughts. First, a column in Inc. Magazine titled “The Neuroscience That's Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders.” The article summarizes concepts from “Neuroscience for Leaders,” a new book by Dr. Nikolaos Dimitriadis and Dr. Alexandros Psychogios. A few highlights that reveals the importance of emotion in leadership:

  • There is a neuroscience to leadership, one that allows managers to move from "good" to "great" by retraining thought patterns, nurturing emotions, and training yourself to respond with empathy. 
  • The brain is primarily "a social organ" and a great leader views the role as one of empathy.
  • The emotional brain is crucial for guiding our decisions and behaviors and it is always on duty.
  • Empathy is talked about in companies but rarely practiced in management. Managers desire to lead with more emotion, but scanning through spreadsheets and charts all day, responding to stress by becoming more analytical, and overemphasizing certain emotions--such as happiness or fear of failure--make leaders only partially effective.

My observation: great leaders have an innate sense of how to blend the metaphorical left brain, that of logic and analytics, with the right brain, considered the center of creativity and emotion.

The reference about moving from “good” to “great” reminds me of the classic book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. It’s still relevant, even though it was released a few years ago. You should read it if you want to become a great leader.

In “Good to Great” there are descriptions of the most advanced “Level 5” leaders that take an organization from just “good” to “great”:

  • Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. Their ambition is for the institution, not themselves.
  • Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated.
  • Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve worked as an employee or consultant with many types of leaders. The great leaders, producing the best outcomes, had empathy, listened to the “worker bees”, quickly made go or no-go decisions, and had a magnetic personality. They were likeable. Three positive traits of people I’ve worked with, who were “great” marketers had these styles of leadership:

  • Tough as nails, but want everyone to succeed as individuals.
  • Delegated every decision about copy and creative to the professionals.
  • Were cheerleaders who empathized, knew every department’s responsibility and brought out the best in human behavior.

Then there are traits of other marketing leaders who weren’t at a Level 5 and got in the way of being effective:

  • The only good ideas came from them.
  • Decisions were painfully slow, or non-existent, and marketing opportunities were missed.
  • Chased the latest, bright shiny technology object, wasting time, and failed to test anything.

So, back to neuroscience and the opportunity to change yourself: whether you’re the leader, or aspire to become the leader. I challenge you to ask yourself:

1.    Do you nurture emotions?
2.    Are you social?
3.    Do you display genuine empathy?
4.    Are you more productive because you engage with the emotions of co-workers or staff?
5.    Do you channel your ego away from yourself and lift up others?
6.    Should your swagger be moved down a notch?
7.    While keeping everything else in check, are you producing sustained positive outcomes?

Read more about using neuroscience in marketing, along with left brain/right brain thinking in my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.”. Download my free seven-step guide to help you align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks. It’s titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.” 


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.