Do you have the brain of a leader?

The 30 recruits to the marketing academy all want to be leaders of the future, but do they really have what it takes? We reveal the results of the scholars’ pyschometric personality tests.


There’s a new generation of marketers coming up the ranks who have revolution on their minds. They want to change the way their companies see marketing and be recognised in the boardroom, influencing key business decisions.

EDF Energy brand strategy manager Daianna Karaian is one of them. In her opinion: “Marketing needs to become less about saying what you do, and more about doing what you say – making sure the entire organisation is delivering on the brand promise.”

She adds: “All too often, marketing is still putting lipstick on a pig.”

Karaian is among 30 scholars who have won a place at the Marketing Academy, a 12-month educational programme run in partnership with Marketing Week, designed to identify the sharpest minds in the business and equip them to become leaders of the future.

The academy scholars met for their first ‘boot camp’ in Berkshire last month, where they shared their opinions of their profession with Marketing Week.

As with all of the scholars, Karaian’s views are her own, not those of her employer, but she is forthright in her assessment of what marketing needs to do: “It needs to better communicate a single-minded benefit to the rest of the organisation. It has to assert itself as the main growth engine for the business, and then deliver.”

It is a noble dream, and one that many idealistic marketers might once have hoped to achieve themselves. But the 2012 marketing scholars are committed to rising to the top.

Take your influence outside

It takes a particular personality to lead a marketing department and be taken seriously by the board, Nokia vice-president of marketing creation Steven Overman advises the scholars. In his opening address to the Marketing Academy, he argues that marketers need to become better at galvanising support from other departments if they are to secure a seat at the top table.

At Nokia, a turnaround of the business is under way. It has slipped from being the world’s number-one mobile phone manufacturer and made a loss of nearly £800m in the fourth quarter of 2011. But with its flagship Lumia handset, Nokia now has a product it believes can wrest market share back from its competitors.

Overman says a business in turnaround needs marketing to be influential, but marketers also need to be diplomatic about their ambitions to take a leadership role. “Everything we do – our design, our engineering, our corporate culture – has to be rooted in a brand promise, and marketers understand that,” he says. But business turnaround is not owned solely by marketing. So we have to both drive our brand, and ensure it doesn’t come off as just a marketing initiative.”

Networking, network, network

In order to perform this sensitive balancing act, marketing leaders need to be better at internal networking and brand building, Overman says, advising them to have more personal contact with colleagues in design, legal and finance departments, for example. It is far easier to convince other people to follow someone they already know and trust, and whose vision they believe in. It also enhances marketing’s influence on other departments so the discipline doesn’t become the porcine cosmetic that EDF’s Karaian complains of.

The academy’s scholars are encouraged to look outside their organisations, as well as outside their departments, for inspiration on how to lead. They come from a variety of professional backgrounds and will be sharing with each other the differing leadership skills of entrepreneurs, brand managers and strategists.

Scholar James Meekings, co-founder and marketing director of business lending marketplace Funding Circle, says marketers who fail to seek this wider perspective risk tunnel vision. “It is like being a racehorse with blinkers on, when there is a faster racecourse next door with supercharged vitamin grass.”

Leadership can mean different things in different businesses. At the Marketing Academy’s boot camp, the scholars received results of a psychometric personality test that each took prior to attending, highlighting the skills each has to become a leader in the future. The results show both striking similarities and unexpected differences. Being skilled at interacting with other people is a core skill for a marketing leader, the data shows, but there is no one clear marketing mindset (see Personality Report, below).

RB Insanely Driven

RB Insanely Driven
Insanely driven: Reckitt Benckiser targets the feerless in its recruitment video

The test, carried out by consultancy Team Focus, breaks down individuals’ profiles into six areas that impact on their working lives – interaction style, interpersonal situations, influencing style, managing pressure, decision-making and work style. In each area, the profiles are scored on opposing personality dimensions: someone can be dominant or accommodating, socially bold or retiring, for example.

Marketing Week analysed a sample of 18 scholar personality reports, with their permission. Of those, 15 (83%) are assessed as being group-oriented as opposed to self-sufficient. The same number are described as socially bold rather than retiring and as dominant rather than accommodating. But the scholars are more evenly split when it comes to being either forthright (61%) or discreet (39%).

Pimm’s senior brand manager Emma Sherwood-Smith says her personality test was largely accurate but didn’t highlight her relationship-building skills, which she feels are an essential quality in a leader. “Getting to know my team and building strong relationships with them is a priority for me and something that I do quite instinctively, and this is not really reflected in my ‘interpersonal situations’ section.”

Sherwood-Smith’s profile suggests she is more likely to be dominant than accommodating, and forthright rather than discreet, meaning she might be seen as “blunt” in interpersonal situations. She doesn’t recognise this description of herself; even so, the self-awareness that such a report provides can be a benefit in itself, according to fellow scholar Sophia Wetherell, international development director at M&C Saatchi.

“When I approach a decision, I think about what my objectives and goals are, and the people I am dealing with. In my mind it is a rational decision. But the timing with which I do it and the amount of risk-taking I do is probably mostly subconscious – I am not yet very aware of it. The more self-aware I become, the better I will be able to shape my career.”

Personality testing is not only important to the Marketing Academy. Consumer goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser (RB), seeks a well-defined personality type. The company has even come up with a name for it and turned it into a recruiting motto: Insanely Driven. Like competitors such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble, RB sees marketing as its lead business function and its marketers as leaders.

RB doesn’t use psychometric testing during its application process, but has used it to reach the conclusion that employees tend to share character traits. They score highly on four particular measures: they are extremely direct, fearless, ambitious and cool-headed, which together add up to RB’s definition of insanely driven.

RB senior vice-president of global corporate affairs, Andraea Dawson-Shepherd, says: “We tend to find our people, especially in marketing and sales, are very strongly in this grouping. RB is reasonably well known for its consistent global culture. We broadly want people to have the same sort of drive.”

One who fails to seek the wider perspective ‘is like a racehorse with blinkers on, when there is a racehorse next door with vitamin grass’

RB has recently produced an online video-based personality test, hosted on its corporate website and at, where prospective applicants can find out about their own personalities and how they compare to the RB ideal. Unlike most tests of this type, it isn’t based on a dry tick-box sheet, but instead puts viewers in vaguely recognisable situations, and asks them what they would do. It is intended to spread awareness of the company among young marketers and recent graduates.

Although the company doesn’t screen applicants for personality type, Dawson-Shepherd says it is important people considering a career at RB understand the culture of the company. Marketers there are expected to drive growth and change.

“Skills can be developed, but your attitude and approach to the world of work can’t. For us, innovation is at our core, so we want people who are interested to see what’s next, who are happy to take risks. Our business model demands that we have a rapid rate of innovation. The phrase ‘We couldn’t possibly do that’ is not something we want to hear.”

Dawson-Shepherd also makes the point that RB employees need to have well-developed leadership skills because multiple projects can be going on within a department at any one time, and marketers will need to direct others to deliver what they are accountable for. It is a state of affairs likely to be replicated at any company with a flat structure, where there are not many levels of hierarchy.

This form of leadership is required in virtually every organisation, and not only at the top levels of management. But for marketing to be a business function that can make a difference to the world, as well as to the bottom line, another kind of leader is required – one that has an unparalleled creative vision and the skill to make it a reality. This is the kind of leadership that probably can’t be taught or unearthed by a personality test, but these are the leaders that the Marketing Academy is seeking to uncover most of all, and which all of its scholars one day hope to be.

Google senior strategist and scholar Puneet Ahira summarises succinctly the goal that she and all young marketers aspire to: “As much as there is a shortage of good talent to promote from the bottom, I’m looking up, as high as I can see, and finding a shortage of people who act with gravitas, who have the depth of personality that makes us all think a little differently. Where are they? Where are our creative geniuses of today?” Ahira hopes to be able to fill that void one day and become the marketing leader who thinks differently and is able to influence across the company that she works for.

Marketing Academy scholars’ personality reports

James Eder

James Eder
Founder and director
The Beans Group

As an entrepreneur, James Eder carries his brand on his shoulders. He co-founded, an online portal for student discounts, while still a student in 2005, and today it employs 30 people.

It is no surprise that personality tests reveal him to be an enthusiastic and outgoing networker – a necessary skill for someone promoting a start-up business. His interaction style gets the maximum scores for being both warm-hearted and socially bold. His profile suggests he is “very confident when it comes to approaching and initiating contact”.

He also scores highly as being both radical and abstract in the way he thinks. This suggests he likes to experiment with ideas and approaches – also perhaps fitting for someone who had the vision to start his own business.

But Eder admits that he needs to be aware of when these traits might hold him back, and find ways to counteract them.

“My profile suggests that my high spontaneity and need for variety may mean that I am good at starting things but not so good at finishing them. While this may be seen as a weakness, recognising this means that I can build the right team around me to complement and overcome any weaknesses.”



Gemma Howells
Pedigree senior brand manager
Mars Petcare

Gemma Howells won Marketing Week’s Rising Star award in 2010 for her work on Innocent Drinks’ kids range, securing a substantial increase in the marketing budget for its ‘back to school’ campaign. She is now senior brand manager for Pedigree dog food at Mars Petcare.

Howells’ personality report shows consummate balance in her thinking and decision-making processes. She shows an ability to maintain equilibrium between being tough and tender-minded, and between radical and conventional ideas.

The report describes her as someone who is likely to be good at mediating “people who are too fanciful, abstract and creative and those who are too detailed and practical”. These traits would probably have served her well when she spent a year in Hamburg, launching the Innocent brand in Germany as part of a small start-up team.

“It was pretty accurate but there are two things in the report I disagree with,” says Howells. She says she is more discerning than the report suggests when it comes to trusting people to carry out tasks, and disputes the suggestion that her personality means she wouldn’t enjoy presenting on stage. “That’s definitely not the case,” she says.



Inderveer Tatla

Inderveer Tatla has the unusual job title of ‘intrapreneur’. It is the embodiment of what her fellow Marketing Academy scholar, Unilever marketing manager Hasseb-ur-Rahman, sees as the future of the marketing role in general – that of an entrepreneur within a larger organisation.

Tatla has been responsible for developing a new consumer offering within the £50m business-to-business brand ByBox. It runs a network of electronic lockers located outside railway stations and supermarkets, where recipients of parcels can pick them up while running their everyday errands, rather than missing a delivery to their homes.

Prior to this role, Tatla was marketing manager for ByBox’s business-facing operation and developed the company’s marketing programme, both for the UK and for its international subsidiary Logibag. Her record indicates an ability to take projects on independently and bringing them to fruition.

Tatla’s work style, as described in her personality profile, is likely to be an asset to her in delivering results single-handedly. She is far more likely to be radical than conventional, and to be enthusiastic rather than sober in her approach to work. Tatla refers to herself as “driven, confident and energetic”.


jennifer elworthy

Jennifer Elworthy
Marketing manager
The Times and Sunday Times

“A lot of my job is about how I manage people who don’t directly report to me,” says Jennifer Elworthy, marketing manager for The Times and Sunday Times at publisher News International.

She is responsible for directing and approving all communications that form the multichannel marketing campaigns for the newspapers, websites and apps. Being a good co-ordinator of people is therefore crucial.

It is appropriate, then, that Elworthy’s personality report marks out her team role as that of a “resource investigator” – someone who develops and extends the contacts that are useful to a team. Her influencing style is assessed as being very trusting and emotionally stable, and she balances herself delicately between being dominant and accommodating, the report suggests.

It also indicates that she is more likely to see the advantages than the disadvantages of working in a group, tends to give people the benefit of the doubt and copes well with setbacks. With team leadership being paramount, Elworthy says that enhancing her awareness of personality types is something that will benefit her working relationships.

“I also want to spot my team’s strengths and weaknesses, and how we can all work together,” she adds.


Marketing Academy scholars’ viewpoints on marketing and leadership


Emad Nadim
Kenco assistant brand manager

Leadership is not about putting your agenda first, but putting yourself first in terms of understanding who you are and then being able to get more out of people. Ultimately, you won’t be able to help people if you aren’t sure of who you are, and a lot of it is driven by self-awareness. That is the first step for me, when it comes to leadership. I am not excited just by doing things a little bit better, but actually by finding things on the fringe and being able to lead a trend rather than succeeding in a current trend.


Haseeb-ur Rahman
Marketing manager (for Hellmann’s, Colman’s and Maille)

I would like to see marketing as an entrepreneurial function within an organisation which sniffs out ideas that have the power to change the lives of consumers. I want marketing to be perceived not just as a department but as a purpose for the existence of the organisation, in which every employee is a ‘marketer’ in the sense that they are serving the consumers in their own capacity. Marketers must earn a leadership role rather than take a leadership role. In just the same way as a brand is loved because consumers believe it’s the best option for them, a leader is loved because his or her team believe in the leader and want to be led.

Emma Sherwood Smith

Emma Sherwood-Smith
Pimm’s senior brand manager

For me, the role of the marketing function and therefore the marketer has already shifted dramatically during the past five years. The modern-day marketer needs to be the holistic business manager: creative, commercial and strategically astute. Now that the marketing process has evolved to become a two-way real-time conversation with consumers, marketers need also to be flexible and adaptable. Ultimately, we need to have leadership capability to manage all of these skills, gain alignment from our increasing number of stakeholders and make it all happen.

james meeking

James Meekings
Co-founder and marketing director
Funding Circle

As I’m an entrepreneur, the company is very small. A year ago there were five of us and now there are 20 of us. We don’t have any leadership programmes in place yet, so sometimes we need to step back from the day to day, see what we are doing and how we can make ourselves better. It would be great for me to take 10 days off, sit in a coffee shop and think about leadership divorced from a work environment. But there is no better place to do that than around other people from other industries.

joven buac

Jovan Buac
Account director

We all want to be better, but I’m also very keen on making other people better and teaching and passing that knowledge on to people in my team so that they can rise up. You have to get out of your comfort zone and learn from people, getting different perspectives from different industries. I work within branding and design, so to hear how Nokia does things, or how an entrepreneurial business works is really interesting to me, because it is completely different to what I do.


Fiona Marshall

Fiona Marshall
Head of marketing, womenswear, Asos
Winner of Marketing Week’s 2012 Rising Star Engage award, sponsored by Ball & Hoolahan

The leaders I admire are the ones who are very honest, have integrity and bring their whole self to the role. They have a natural ability to lead. There are lots of techniques that you can learn, but having energy and passion for what you are doing will naturally mean you are someone who people will want to follow.

The barrier for marketers is the need to really understand what the growth drivers are. You can no longer go out and spend millions on a TV ad, then be congratulated because it is really creative. You have to prove it is going to deliver sales. Right now, it is hard for marketers to become leaders. But the more that marketing becomes central to how businesses develop and grow, the easier it will be to progress to a leadership position.

The core principles of marketing are always going to be the same – it’s always going to be about generating consumer-led growth – but the role that digital technology is going to play will become increasingly important. Because of it, the world is becoming more fragmented, and that will make it harder for marketers to build strong brands.

The more mobile innovation you can come up with as a marketing department, the better it will be for your business. You have got to put together very solid case studies that show having a product that is accessible on mobile will double your sales, for example. That is the language the finance team can understand.

There needs to be a new type of marketing, which doesn’t mean that the discipline we are familiar with is lost – it just means being fast-paced, working on multiple channels and knowing how those interlink. You have to make sure they are all working together and all contributing to building the brand.


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