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.
Four levels of communication skills were identified by those surveyed.
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.
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.