Leadership Lessons Learned Over The Years

Leadership Lessons Learned Over The Years

Leadership Lessons Learned Over The Years

Now that I’ve started a new leadership blog, it seems like a good time to review, update, and re-share some of the posts which I believe convey the most valuable leadership lessons.

As you may know, I share leadership lessons monthly via the “Taking The Lead” column in the Public Relations Society of America’s Public Relations Tactics.  In it, I interview some of our industry’s most respected leaders, whether corporate, or agency, from large to boutique.

But around a year ago, I decided it was time to share my leadership lessons honed over the years as a consultant, executive coach and learning workshop trainer for PR and communications organizations since 2007, and previously as an agency manager and leader.

So I interviewed myself!

Leadership Lessons


Here’s what I had to say:

Leadership Lesson One: We Must Develop More Effective Leaders

  • As a profession, we’re not doing enough to develop our future leaders. We’re still promoting too many PR executives into positions of leadership because they have multifaceted communications, content, social or digital skills, are great with clients, and superb at building business. These are incredibly valuable skills, but do they define leadership? I say no.
  • We’re not explaining the critical distinctions between management and leadership to our leaders-in-training. While we may have differing definitions of these two functions,  I believe management is about the process. In other words, getting the train out of the station on time, and overseeing programs, timetables, production schedules and budgets.
  • Leadership is about people: communicating, guiding, motivating and inspiring them. Leadership isn’t about the fancy title, the big bucks or a corner office. It’s about having followers who share your vision on what the organization needs and see alignment between their most important values and yours. I’ve seen executive vice presidents who weren’t truly leaders, and account executives who were.
  • For you to be a leader, you must make two choices: You have to make the conscious choice to lead, and your prospective followers must make the choice to follow you. If both of those things don’t happen, you’re not a leader.

Leadership Lesson Two: Leadership, Trust, and Power

  • There is one factor that is the most important: It’s not communications, charisma or even persuasiveness; it’s trust. Without this, it’s impossible to lead.
  • The best leaders realize that they don’t have power over their teams, their power comes from their teams. It’s not about achieving success, but about leading others to achieve their own success. It’s an enormous responsibility, with big risks and big rewards. When you get it right, it can be incredibly fulfilling.
  • One of the most effective ways to become a better leader is to become a more active and empathetic listener. That’s because you can’t understand your followers’ core values, worldview or dreams when you’re doing the talking.

Leadership Lesson Three: Leadership and Courage

  • Leadership isn’t for the timid. People are attracted to courage. If you’re a leader or leader-in-training and have fear, then learn how to walk through it or find some help. I wish someone had told me that when I was in the agency business!
  • It’s not about having a particular leadership style. It’s about having the flexibility to create customized leadership styles for each individual that you lead. If you don’t provide this, then why should those individuals follow you?
  • Do everything you possibly can to increase your emotional intelligence (EI). The time and resources you invest in doing so will deliver tremendous ROI.
  • A great way to know if you’ve become a successful leader is how well your organization operates when you’re out of the office. If it does so effectively, that’s a credit to your leadership, because then you’ve truly empowered your followers. Being comfortable with letting go is one of the first steps on the path to great leadership.
  • Accept that as you empower your followers, they’re going to do some things differently than you did. In some cases the results will be as good as yours. In some situations, not as good (but good enough!) And in other cases, better than yours. The only way to find out is to be comfortable saying, “It’s not how I’d do it, but you have my proxy to go and do it your way!”

Your Leadership Legacy = The Leadership Lessons Learned By Your Followers

  • Your legacy isn’t just about doubling the budget, adding additional offices and outposts, creating new products and services or increasing the staff. It’s about the people you’ve inspired. It’s about those who remember the leadership lessons you’ve taught them, about optimism, fortitude and staying centered during the firestorm.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked for formidable PR leaders, such as Jean Way Schoonover, APR, Fellow PRSA, Barbara Way Hunter, APR, Fellow PRSA, Lenore Cooney and Marina Maher. Their lessons inspire me to this day. I’ve inherited a rich leadership legacy, which has led me to a rewarding career. What leadership legacy are you leaving behind?

A similar post first appeared in Public Relations Tactics in May, 2016.


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