Peter Drucker, popular management consultant and author, summed up leadership styles best with his quote: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s standards to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

When it comes to leadership styles, they are about as diverse as the variety of foods at a buffet. In public relations, the hallmark for successful PR leaders may lie in these nine qualities based on the results of 16 leadership studies carried out since 2005 by the Plank Center for Public Relations at the University of Alabama. The Center’s work involved surveys, interviews and focus groups with nearly 4,000 professionals, educators and students of public relations.

Leading by Example

Lead by example was cited by young public relations professionals as the most important quality they wished to see in PR leadership styles. Executives who demonstrated excellent behavior and who were mentors and role models to their peers were viewed as possessing those critical leadership qualities.


When senior PR practitioners were queried about this, they identified capability in strategic decision-making as the most important role of a PR leader. They said a good PR leader is immersed in successfully and reliably participating in the process.


Embodying a strong set of values for doing the right thing, while consistently practicing professional standards ranked high among respondents. They said this is critical, not just for one’s own reputation, but also for that of the organization and profession.

Skill Set

Four levels of communication skills were identified by those surveyed.

They included:
1. technical skill, to deal with today’s digital world,
2. strategic skill, in order to successfully strategize and plan,
3. relational skill, for good interpersonal skills, and
4. a political level skill. requiring credible and verbal communications skills.

Self Knowledge

Having the self-knowledge to steer one’s development, form relationships and channel successful interactions was important to respondents. They saw these as being vital in enabling PR pros to relate better with others.

A Desire to Lead

As obvious as it may appear, those surveyed felt this was key to a PR leader’s long-term success. They also felt that having a strong desire to lead also provides an ongoing source of energy, inspiration, and learning.
Being Transformational and Inclusive

Past surveys revealed that a combination of transformation and inclusive leadership styles is preferred by PR professionals. Both are said to be essential and effective in earning employee trust as well as in conflicts. The transformational side offers a vision for the future while the other is collaborative.

Show the Passion

The essence of leadership is the passion for PR and the work involved. It not only inspires others, but also encourages exemplary performance.

Agent of Change

The last finding was encouraging PR professionals to be agents of change within their organization. Creating a culture of open communication and modeling ethical behavior fosters an environment of excellence. This also sets an example for the rest of the organization.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.