Leadership in Public Relations is not as clear cut as one may think.
Not only do you have to display the conventional leadership skills (strategy, purpose, coaching, values, inclusion and character) but, also, you need to demonstrate that PR can drive organisational and societal purpose, and achieve objectives.
It all starts with you, the practitioner, and your ability to:
- add value (knowing very clearly why your input matters),
- provide strategic advice and counsel (have a 3600 horizon scanning ability and be able to see all the variable scenarios unfolding),
- be ethical and professional (as a minimum, abide by the Code of Conduct of a PR membership body and that of your Client/Employer),
- have a sound business acumen (know your market forces, competitor analysis, risk matrix, financial results, and stakeholder maps),
- have a good understanding of organisational resources (human and material),
- understand the complexities and benefits/shortcomings surrounding diversity in all its forms (of thought and of body),
- be capable and willing to solve a variety of problems where PR may not be the main focus (the impact of potential mergers/acquisitions/hostile take-overs or new markets),
- make decisions and be accountable for them (prove you have integrity and stand by your decisions),
- inspire and motivate those you work with and take them on a journey with you (it’s not about you, it’s about the others and about why they should follow where you lead).
Public Relations (the practice aspect that relates to strategic advice and counsel) is pivotal in ensuring businesses and not-for-profit entities (governments, NGOs etc.) have a voice and are being heard and listened to. PR also has a very clear role in guiding the organisational goals.
There are many ways to get from A to B; some are faster, others slower – some are not so clear cut and “clean”, others are straightforward and long-lasting. If you are a good PR practitioner and understand your leadership role either as a consultant or in-house, then you stand a very good chance to map the organisational goals and advise on the best way to get from A to B.
No one expects you to know it all, or to be perfect in leading by example; no one is.
Erring is human, and the most difficult test of your leadership skills is to admit you’ve been wrong and apologise for it. Very few do and even fewer mean it. If you want to demonstrate leadership in PR, you need to ensure you can do that – if you can’t, then you will never be a leader (in PR or any other walk of life).
There aren’t many lines of practice in the business and governmental world that have such a robust knowledge and thorough understanding of the entire organisational landscape as PR does. PR practitioners can lead if they put their mind to it.
Leadership is not attached to business titles but to the real power one has to drive and inspire, to motivate and influence, to do the right thing for the right reasons, to give credit where it’s due, and to take responsibility when required.