The Personality Traits of Top Marketing Leaders

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Domenica D’Ottavio
Domenica D’Ottavio


We all know a great leader when we see one, but it can be tricky to identify the particular traits that enable certain people to lead teams to success, influence their community, and create positive change.


Digital marketing is an industry with an abundance of inspiring and innovative leaders across all facets of the industry. From SEO, Paid Ads, Email, Content, Social, and everything in between, successful individuals are innovating the processes that we already know and inspiring their teams, as well as their online followers.

In this new original research, my team at Fractl sought out to determine what makes these inspiring figures tick.

Which characteristics, traits, and personality types are common among the most successful marketing leaders? How do your most trusted marketing professionals compare to other influencers in the industry?

Using IBM's Watson Personality Insights, we were able to determine the top (and bottom) traits among 2019 top digital marketing leaders across the spectrum. From Neil Patel to Seth Godin, and from Amy Vernon to Mari Smith, we break down the personalities of these individuals and identify which personality traits for which leaders scored highest.

Whether you want to become a powerful marketing leader or simply want to emulate some of their most impressive traits in the workplace, keep reading.

→ Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh  Shah [Free Guide].

The Most Important Personality Traits to Succeed in Digital Marketing

1. Adventurousness

You probably think ambition, creativity, or collaboration are obvious personality traits you need to be successful in marketing. However, our report showed that leaders actually commonly scored high for the trait Adventurousness.

Taking risks, testing new methods, and coming up with new ideas are all key components to a good marketer's skill set, and many of the top leaders in the industry scored remarkably well in this trait.

The-Most-Important-Personality-Traits-1However, I can hear the naysayers already -- “Adventurous? What does adventure have anything to do with digital marketing?” If visions of hiking Mount Everest and bungee-jumping come to mind, I don't blame you. But in this context, adventurous leaders, according to IBM Watson Personality Insights, "are eager to try new activities and experience different things. They find familiarity and routine boring."

These are the movers and shakers of the marketing industry.

Marketing leaders who score high on the adventurous scale are willing to take risks, try out new strategies, and fearlessly mix up their tactics to see which might earn the most ROI for their businesses. Adventurous marketers test new strategies and are eager to report their findings, create meaningful conversations within the community, and lead the entire industry forward.

It's important to note, of all the leaders we looked at, Ann Handley was the only person whose top quality is Adventurous. Considering Handley was named by IBM as one of the seven people shaping modern marketing and is the world's first Chief Content Officer, it makes sense she scored highly in adventure.

This trait also appeared in several other marketers' top five characteristics, including names like Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert, and Amisha Gandhi, a well-known speaker and currently the Senior Director of Influencer Marketing for SAP.

2. Energetic

As is true with any leader, having high energy is an important quality to both inspire and motivate teams to make positive change. IBM Watson Personality Insights describe energetic leaders as those that "lead fast-paced and busy lives. They do things and move about quickly, energetically, and vigorously, and they are involved in many activities."

There's a reason Neil Patel, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Amy Porterfield's top quality on the IBM Watson scale is Energetic. They're all incredibly successful, active, and outgoing marketers -- with plenty responsibilities to keep them moving.

For instance, Neil Patel is a name on the forefront of marketing today. His many accomplishments include speaking at over 310 conferences, hosting the Marketing School podcast, and co-founding Neil Patel Digital and Crazy Egg.

Vaynerchuk juggles ownership of a media company (VaynerMedia) and an ad agency (VaynerX). Gary Vee definitely has his hands full -- not to mention the time he dedicates to his enormous fanbase on social media.

Lastly, Amy Porterfield spends her time hosting the top-ranked business podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy, creating online courses, and educating hundreds of thousands of business owners worldwide.

With all of that going on, there's no doubt these marketers have to be energetic!

3. Assertiveness

Being direct and decisive when asserting your opinions is necessary for making tough calls or getting projects back on-schedule. Someone who is assertive, according to the Watson API, "likes to take charge and direct the activities of others" -- sounds like a necessary quality to have if you're expected to empower your team to succeed.

Tyrona Heath's top trait is Assertiveness. This comes as no surprise. You need to be able to "take charge" when you're the global lead of Market Development at LinkedIn. Tyrona's assertiveness comes through in her other activities as well -- particularly as an educator, author, and public speaker.

Assertiveness appears as a top five characteristic for other female marketers, as well, including Mari Smith, an international social media thought leader, and Kim Garst, self-proclaimed "Online Marketing Guru."

4. Intellect

Finally, Watson defines marketing leaders who score highly for Intellect as people who are "intellectually curious and tend to think in symbols and abstractions."

We've often heard that many of the world's most successful leaders are high school or college dropouts. From this alone, it's clear that true leadership is a skill that can be learned both in or outside the classroom.

While it's fantastic to have a leader with great intellect on your team, those leaders must also be able to build a team full of highly intelligent people and motivate them to drive success.

With 15 published books under his belt and countless speaking engagements from all over the world, Guy Kawasaki's top trait -- intellect -- could be considered a prerequisite to that level of success.

Intellect was also the #1 trait in the personality profiles of Rand Fiskin, Sparktoro founder, Amy Vernon, a self-proclaimed digital Swiss Army Knife, and Aleyda Solis, International SEO consultant, author, and speaker.

How Do These Leaders Score Across Various Qualities?

The study also looked into other qualities using IBM Watson's API to see how leaders compare. You can explore the flipbook (below) to learn how leading marketers stack up against one another when it comes to less common leadership qualities like altruism, imagination, and modesty.

To recap, the personality traits that are most prevalent among leading digital marketers today, according to our study, are:

  1. Adventurousness
  2. Energetic
  3. Assertive
  4. Intellect

Some people are natural-born leaders and others have to work on their leadership skills, one day at a time. If you follow these marketing leaders' social channels or blogs, you'll quickly notice that although there are many qualities they share, these influential figures have very different personalities, and as a result, each has unique communities and followers.

Ultimately, each marketing leader we surveyed bring unique personality and experiences to the table, enriching the industry and allowing it to benefit from consistent streams of innovation.

Even if you choose to focus on cultivating these top qualities in your career, you'll want to continue to be your authentic self and let your individuality show.

Showing a taste for adventure, an energetic demeanor, assertiveness, and intellect -- as well as maintaining a sense for what makes you, well, you -- will earn you respect from your colleagues and community alike. Additionally, it can equip you with the skills to become a future leader in your niche.

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Topics: Leadership

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