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, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.