Attributes of an effective marketing leader, part 4: both-brained

Part of what makes marketing such a stimulating discipline is the requirement to use both hemispheres of your brain, the analytical side and the creative side. While most people tend to have a dominant side, effective marketing leaders are capable of engaging both sides well.

There are many needs for the analytical side. Marketing is becoming a much more data-driven discipline. Improvements in database technologies, Web analytics, media tracking tools and price optimization models have made data more abundant than ever. The quest for better ROI attribution is being facilitated in new and improved ways. Yet it can be easy to be overwhelmed with data and lose sight of the information that truly improves decision making. Great marketing leaders will have a knack for using data effectively. They are good “systems thinkers” (read The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge for more on this skill) and can structure methods that improve an organization’s understanding of cause and effect. They are capable of making logical and reasoned decisions and can communicate the rationale so others know how they should act.

But real breakthroughs in thinking often come from the right side of the brain where empathy, creativity and big-picture thinking are believed to reside. Empathy is defined on dictionary.com as “the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.” This ability is essential for a marketing leader’s success for two reasons: engaging customers and engaging employees. Gaining insight into the thoughts and feeling of customers makes it possible to respond to them in much more effective ways. A leader attuned to his or her peers and team members can better gauge concerns that must be addressed in order to realize the desired vision. Emotional intelligence is no longer optional for effective leaders.

Neither are creativity or big-picture thinking. In the complex and volatile world in which we live we will increasingly face dilemmas instead of problems. Problems can be solved, dilemmas can’t. They must be resolved creatively by thinking “out of the box.” Marketing dilemmas include simultaneously increasing growth rates and profitability, controlling your message while encouraging your customers to speak their minds, and streamlining your product line even as you offer your customers more options. These are the challenges of the creative mind. The great marketing leaders not only engage their own creativity but the collective creativity of others.

Are you a left-brained, analytical thinker or a right-brained, creative thinker? To be a great marketing leader, you must be both-brained. If you are one-side dominant, I’d encourage you to embrace the other side. Not only will you be more effective, I believe you will find new joy in things you used to dread.