The 4 Qualities of Marketing Leaders I Love to Hire

06/15/2015 05:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016


I once worked with a talented Marketing Manager named Nick (name changed) who had a strange habit that may surprise you. At least once a month, he would interview with another company. Nick seemed to do well in his role, and was well liked by his colleagues. But something did not add up.

One day, over a rare lunch out at a local Mexican restaurant, I asked him why he did it. After a little prodding, he admitted in a defeated tone that "this job just wasn't what I signed up for."

Over the next several weeks I learned that the hiring manager lied to Nick about what they were looking for when he was hired. His technical skills and ambitious nature were not utilized in the role he now found himself in.

I know you can relate to Nick, I can too. At one point in your life you have accepted a job offer based on one assumption, only to find out later that the job is nothing like you expected.

Maybe you ended up with a Marketing VP that expected the impossible, or perhaps your coworkers clung to the ways of the past instead of looking to the future of marketing. The reason does not really matter, the point is that you did not wake up excited to go to work each day.

Why aren't companies honest about the qualities they are hiring for?

They should be.

I have thought about this a lot lately as we rapidly expand the Marketing team at Aha! (which is software for product managers). Being transparent is very important when building a team, especially during the interview process. I want candidates to understand exactly what we are looking for. Most of all, I want the folks we hire to be happy.

I am a visual kind of guy, so I started imagining a visual diagram of what the perfect marketing leader would look like. It sure beats dealing in hypotheticals and questioning whether or not someone will be a great fit. Here is what I came up with:


Ambition comes first. Because if you are going to be in the jungle, you might as well be a lion. I want you to go big. Without ambition, you will bob-and-weave your way to nowhere. I often recommend a "goal first" approach to marketing, but it's also the first place to start as you think about your own direction and career.

A candidate told me the other day that "leadership is a born trait." I don't think so. It takes hard work to become a leader. That's because it takes hard work to repeatedly do anything with excellence and leadership is a journey. I want to work with folks who love accomplishment and are willing to work hard to achieve it.

Put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of the customer. What is your product actually worth to them? Remarkably, few marketers are able to answer that question. You must be able to empathize with your customers and understand the market dynamics around them. Customers today have access to instant information, are empowered to share their opinions about products and services, and have more alternatives than ever before.

We are all moving too fast for you to be comfortable standing in one place. I hope that you are curious and open and committed to learning. Continuous learning is about further expanding your skill-set and it takes the right mindset. We need to respond to changes with social media, search engines, and other new technology easily and without fear. The only way to do this is to know where you are going, use your existing skills, and develop new approaches along the way.

I want to hire your potential and if you are strong in the areas above, I will have confidence that you will reach it.

What qualities do you value most in the marketers you work with?