What a different career Bradley Akubuiro might have had if Reverend Jesse Jackson hadn’t taken a chance on him when he was a journalism student at Northwestern. “When he first met me, I was only 19,” says Bradley in his interview for PR Profiles. “With some coaching, with some guidance, with some empowerment, being put in a position to be able to succeed, I was able to learn a lot, grow a ton, and be able to make what I feel were some pretty significant contributions to a cause which continues on to this day.“
Unsurprisingly, this pivotal moment has stuck with Bradley, so much so that “put people in a position to succeed and see what happens” was one of the lessons in leadership he included in an article for his Inc. Magazine column. Another lesson Bradley shared was, “Have compassion for the people who work for you and be a human in the moments that really matter.”
These leadership lessons are particularly poignant given the last year with the Great Resignation and the resulting war for talent. “The people who work for you are people and they have needs of psychological safety,” says Bradley. “They want to be supported and they want to know that you don’t just want their output. You want them for who they are and what they bring to the table. And if you lose sight of that, then you are going to lose those employees. But if you hold onto that, you’re going to be able to motivate people more than you ever imagined.”
Bradley practices these leadership principles every day in his role as a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), where he leads the agency’s corporate communications practice and the work they do around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In addition to BPI, Bradley is helping mold future communicators as an adjunct integrated marketing communications professor at his alma mater, Northwestern University. It’s his belief that the next generation’s most successful communicators will be the ones tuned into the continued convergence of communications, public affairs, and the increased emergence of ESG.
This belief also aligns with the recent conversations Bradley’s been having with CEOs and corporate leaders. “They’re increasingly looking for a single leader on their leadership teams who’s going to be credible talking about how the company and the CEO in particular should navigate all matters that are related to society,” says Bradley. Companies are no longer only beholden to shareholders. CEOs are increasingly expected to speak up on matters of society by employees, consumers, and investors who want to know where they stand on the value spectrum.
“If you are the communicator who’s focused on the best way to put out the fanciest press release or the new product launch, great, that’s not a bad thing,” says Bradley. “But you also have to be focused on the bigger picture, where the company fits into it, and how you can engage for the maximum impact. Not only from a commercial standpoint, but from a societal standpoint too. And I think the communicators who are going to be most successful in the future are the ones who figure out how to be the Chief Impact Officer, not just the Chief Communications Officer.”