The Leadership Competence of Public Relations

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Behavioural-based assessments argue that the way we handled things in the past is a good predictor for how we will deal with similar situations in the future.

If that is to be the case, then “senior” communicators and public relations practitioners should have a close to perfection track record of leadership competence – but do they?

What we do, stripped down of all the fancy and confusing terminology, is simple: we build.

Like any good builders, we need to have the right tools and materials handy. We also need to know which tool we use for which material, and how all the materials – helped by the tools we use – create that “something”.

The same analogy could be applied to the art and science of building coalitions, reputations, brands and so on – we are, first and foremost, creators of concepts, ideas, stories and reactions.

The higher up we go in the ‘building’ trade chain, the more complex our ‘designs’ become: if an apprentice builder can quite comfortably lay some bricks, a master builder needs to know what to use to create durable, comfortable and solid ‘houses’.

To get our ‘houses’ built, we need ‘planning permission’. In our case, that permission comes from the leadership of the organisation and, to get that approval, we need to ensure we communicate our vision and goals appropriately.

Knowing your leadership strengths and weaknesses is, perhaps, one of the hardest ask of self-awareness, not just in PR and Comms but in any discipline.

Do you have strong strategic leadership skills, such as being able to focus on long-term goals and deliver motivational, inspirational and targeted messages? Can you get the ‘planners’ to see where you’re going and why you want to build your ‘house’ in that style, in that location, using those types of materials?

Strategy without tactics seldom works – if you cannot answer the simple question of: ‘how will you build your house?’ and present the ‘planners’ with an implementation plan that is detailed, measured in milestones and, depending on what you do, with clear key performance indicators (KPIs) attached to it, you will simply undermine your effectiveness as a tactical leader.

In every journey we take, there will always be a straggler or two or more – some because they are not as ‘fast’ as we are, others because they lose confidence or trust in you and what you are trying to do … how do you address any weaknesses in the success ‘chain’ of your plan, regardless of these being yours or others’?

If you create a shared sense of purpose, mediate any differences between the ‘planners’ and diffuse your ideas throughout a broader segment of the ‘Local Council’, you will succeed.

If you lose someone’s support, you need to know why that happened: did you miss something? Did they lose interest? Has their own personal agenda changed? What can you do to get them back?

Very seldom it is about you – most of the time, it is about them. Know your ‘planners’, and then you’ll know what you have to do. Communication and public relations are all to do with ‘us’ understanding ‘them’.

If someone ever asks you what your leadership competence is, now you know.


Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash

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