When you think of great marketing leadership, what comes to mind?
This question is pivotal to the success of your business, because your answer typically reflects the leadership styles you find most effective. Some may conjure one specific boss who inspired them and knew how to manage a large team without being intrusive and overbearing. Others may think about how they ultimately want to lead their team, even if they’ve never had a boss that treated them the same way.
Regardless of what you thought of at the start of this post, there’s no denying that people see effective leaders as graceful, admirable, and fully capable of reaching their goals.
Good leadership is essential to a strong marketing team. You will have a tough time connecting with your target audience and generating sales if your employees don’t have a strong leader behind them.
If you’re stepping into a leadership position for the first time, you may ask, “Which leadership style is right for my team?”
Today, we will help you find an answer to that question.
Below, you’ll find several radically different ways marketing managers connect with their teams. Each style has its own benefits and challenges that you need to know to succeed as a marketing manager.
What are the Most Common Leadership Styles?
There are 6 core leadership styles worth knowing. Let’s go through each one and explain the pros, cons, and situations when each type may come in handy.
Table of Contents:
- The Democratic Leader
- The “Let Them Be” Leader
- The Coaching Leader
- The Autocratic Leader
- The Visionary Leader
- The Collaborative Leader
The Democratic Leader
The first management style on the list is the democratic leader. Democratic leadership relies on allowing each employee to share their thoughts with the rest of the company. Decisions are made by reviewing company-wide feedback and choosing practical, popular choices.
This leadership style is extremely effective because it encourages employees to get involved and make key decisions that will affect the business and customers. People want to feel like their ideas and opinions shape their company, and the democratic leader leans heavily on this concept.
Leaders who use this management style typically ask their team to speak up during meetings and share ideas via employee feedback forms. We recommend sending your team one or two surveys per year. You should also add an “always on” suggestion box to your company website or chat channel, so your team feels empowered to share their thoughts.
Another benefit of this type of management is that you can often discover new marketing strategies that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.
For example, your social media marketing team can offer some out-of-the-box ideas based on their experiences with your audience. If you don’t actively use your brand’s social media account to talk to followers, some of these ideas may have never come to mind.
The biggest drawback of the democratic leadership style is that it takes a lot of time and resources to gather information and develop the best direction for your business. If you need to make a split-second decision, you may have to shift to a different management style on the fly.
The “Let Them Be” Leader
Next, let’s talk about the laissez-faire leadership style. The term laissez-faire, translated from French, means “let them be.” As the name implies, managers who use this strategy rely heavily on their employees to do the right thing and stay on top of their work.
Out of all the styles mentioned today, this is by far the most easy-going. Employees have the authority to govern themselves and their workloads, which can result in increased job satisfaction and productivity.
This technique is well-received, especially among remote employees. Until recently, there was a stigma around working from home. People felt like they were unable to work comfortably, partially due to time-tracking softwares that sometimes takes photos of users in real time to keep track of what they are doing.
The “let them be” leader doesn’t micromanage with tracking softwares or check in multiple times per day.
Managers who adopt this approach only reach out to their team members when necessary. A common practice is to have a bi-weekly 1:1 with each employee so you can review their KPIs (key performance indicators) and ensure they have everything they need to succeed.
Despite the clear benefits, there are some drawbacks to this technique. Notably, new employees may have difficulty adjusting to their roles because positions are not clearly defined, and they are not getting daily feedback.
You can overcome this roadblock by developing an onboarding program for team members that involves a more directed management. Once they are comfortable with their responsibilities and understand their workflows, you’ll be able to “let them be.”
The Coaching Leader
The coaching leadership style is becoming increasingly common across all industries. In essence, this management technique involves building trust with your employees by encouraging them to better themselves.
People who adopt this technique want their teams to learn and grow with the business.
The opportunities offered to employees include premium online courses, internal webinars, and access to other helpful resources, like a company Kindle library full of general and industry-specific books.
Most employees like this leadership style because it encourages them to flex their creativity and evolve alongside the company. It also rewards team members for applying what they learn to day-to-day work.
For instance, if you offer your email marketing team access to a premium lead generation course, they will likely pick up a few new tricks. The result is a happy, well-versed marketing team capable of reaching your target audience.
One thing to look out for is overworking your employees. They may suffer from burnout if you put too many “soft expectations” on their plate. Instead of presenting many different educational opportunities at once, work with each team member to develop a plan that is both manageable, touches on their interests, and adds value.
You can also take steps to make educational presentations more accessible. This tip is helpful if you have a global team. Let’s say you have a monthly internal webinar to educate your team on a new topic. Instead of requiring everyone to show up and sit through the presentation, you can record it so your employees can watch the video when it’s convenient for them.
The Autocratic Leader
The autocratic leader is the opposite of a democratic leader. People using this marketing management style tend to make sweeping decisions without asking for employee feedback. While this is undoubtedly one of the least effective full-time leadership styles, there’s a time and a place to use it effectively.
Before we discuss the benefits, let’s talk about why an “always-on” autocratic mentality can harm your business. The biggest drawback is most employees don’t want to work for a company where they have zero say in the development of the brand. People like knowing that their thoughts and opinions matter to management.
Autocratic leaders have to walk a fine line when making decisions. If they push too hard, employees can feel undervalued and even flat-out disrespected, which can cause a surge in your churn rate and lead to decreased morale and productivity.
Now, we can explore the benefits of occasionally using an autocratic leadership style.
Let’s say you identify a potential security breach on your website. Every second that ticks by presents another opportunity for hackers to access sensitive company and customer data.
Instead of waiting to hear back from your team, you must step in quickly and take action. After you’ve patched the problem, you may send your team a message explaining that they need to change their passwords.
This is a perfectly appropriate time to adopt an autocratic mindset. If your team doesn’t follow through with your request, crucial company and customer data may be in danger.
Another situation where this type of leadership might be necessary, is if you’re building a new marketing team. If your new hires don’t know much about the business or the workflows, they will need you to guide them until they are comfortable.
When you need to lead as an autocratic manager, use a friendly tone and always treat your employees with respect. Your team is far less likely to rebel against your requests, and more likely to trust your leadership.
The Visionary Leader
Now, let’s talk about visionary leaders. As the name implies, visionary leaders are laser-focused on building a future for their businesses. They typically understand where they want to see their company in the years to come and know how to communicate these ideas to their employees.
The traits of these marketing managers include the ability to set and reach long-term goals, inspire team members, and encourage innovation.
Communication is the most powerful skill for visionary leaders. People who adopt this style can share their ideas and get the entire team on the same page. To do this, visionaries must remain optimistic, and encourage their employees to experiment with different ways to achieve long-term goals.
For example, a visionary leader may tell their marketing team, “I’d like to see us go from 1000 subscribers to 2000 by the end of the year. What type of campaigns do you think would convince more people to join our email list?”
They would then listen to feedback and work with their employees to cultivate a list containing the best ideas. Once the team shares their campaign suggestions, it’s up to the marketing team to build and test different lead magnets, emails, and forms.
A big issue, that many visionary leaders face, is their struggle to maintain short-term focus. They are too wrapped up in the big picture.
If this sounds like you, we recommend partnering with another executive or co-owner, who is better at managing details, and can help with short-term issues.
The Collaborative Leader
The last leadership style on our list is known as the collaborative leader. In essence, this type of manager creates tightly-knit teams that work together to meet common goals.
Instead of managing the company as a whole, each group has a leader responsible for the department’s output, even if it’s a team of four or five.
When looking through the lens of a marketing manager, you’ll see groups that include email, social media, PR, on-site content, and a paid ads team. Depending on the size of your company, there may be teams within each group. For example, an email marketing team may have a group focused on building rapport with new subscribers, while another group focuses on customer success.
Collaborative leaders inspire team leaders to think creatively and work through problems as a group, instead of having an “every person for themselves” mentality.
This management style can bring people together and lead to some brilliant ideas.
The downside, is this setting can cause information silos. An information silo is when a group of employees know something that everyone else doesn’t. This situation could lead to confusion and cause cross-team conflict.
Let’s say your email marketing team has mastered your CRM, and knows how to harness the data effectively. Someone from your social media team decides to check the CRM so they can learn more about the audiences’ goals and pain points, but they can’t figure out how to pull up the right data sheets.
The solution to information silos is to ask team members to create documentation describing their processes and keep it all in a central folder. If there’s a tutorial that shows how to collect customer segment data, the social media marketer could quickly and easily find what they need.
Which Marketing Manager Leadership Style is Right for You?
The best thing you can do is adopt the mindset of a situational leader.
Situational leaders pick the best parts of all the leadership styles. They know when to be autocratic, and when to take a more democratic approach.
These leaders understand that there is a time and place for specific managing styles and can adapt at a moment’s notice.
It takes time, self-discipline, and a desire to see yourself grow to become an excellent marketing leader. If you’re just starting in your new role, keep the above examples in mind as you work.
We suggest keeping a journal and tracking your goals and areas for improvement.
You’ll find that there’s no way to become a “perfect” manager. The best you can do is learn and improve as you lead your team to success.