Since our society tends to turn strong leaders into celebrities, many leaders are well-known outside of their industry. For example, Richard Branson is one of the most well-known and respected leaders in the airline industry and is celebrated as perhaps the greatest entrepreneur of all time. Forbes.com named Jeff Bezos a pioneer in the internet commerce world and everyone knows he’s responsible for making Amazon what it is today. Other leaders named by Forbes include Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Larry Page (Google), and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo).
Including those listed above, many of today’s leaders have become household names. However, PR leaders remain relatively unknown. Most PR leaders work behind the scenes and don’t get their share of recognition in the world. Although they remain largely unseen, strong PR leaders are essential to every organization and are distinguished by the following 7 qualities:
1. Effective PR leaders are positive
“Pessimists don’t change the world,” says Jon Gordon, author of The Power of Positive Leadership. He’s right. It’s always the optimists, believers, and dreamers we see changing the world.
Teams and clients need to be inspired and energized and that requires a leader with a positive outlook on life and for the company. If a company wants results, there’s no room for a pessimistic leader.
2. Strong PR leaders are fine with being invisible
A strong PR leader isn’t interested in being famous—they’re committed to connecting organizations to stakeholders. A strong PR leader’s work might place a client in the spotlight, but that’s the client’s glory.
PR leaders don’t have time to worry about getting themselves into the spotlight. Their only concern is using media to their clients’ advantage and achieving their clients’ goals.
3. Effective PR leaders continually develop leadership skills
Leadership skills are acquired over time through training and experience. There isn’t a single leadership course in existence that can produce leaders who won’t benefit from continued growth.
Developing leadership in any industry is a continual process. Effective PR leaders are constantly seeking opportunities to grow and develop their skills. Seminars, workshops, and other resources are always on their schedule. In-between events, blog resources like Griffith Consulting provide PR leaders with tips and strategies to be effective. For instance, their blogs dissolve the notion that leadership is about being the best and emphasize the importance of promoting psychological safety in teams—two important and often overlooked aspects of leadership.
4. Effective PR leaders share their vision
You can’t keep your vision to yourself. Being a leader requires getting people to follow you without questions or doubt. You have to share your vision to get people on board with what you’re asking them to do.
Ken Jacobs from the Public Relations Strategist spoke with nine senior-level PR executives to learn about their leadership philosophies and found that clear goals and collaboration are most important. When a team knows what’s expected and knows where the leader is taking them, they’re confident in their ability to do their job and are more likely to trust their leader.
5. Effective PR leaders focus on clarity
Conflicts are inevitable, and clarity is always the answer. Effective PR leaders are willing to repeat themselves for clarification without getting frustrated. People need leaders who keep them on track and continually guide them toward the overall goal. People need frequent reassurance, even if it means repeating what was said last week.
6. Strong PR leaders are decisive in good and bad times
A leader who can’t make up his or her mind will lose their team’s confidence. A strong PR leader will be decisive regardless of what’s going on. For example, when team members aren’t in agreement, a strong PR leader will listen to everyone’s point of view and make the tough decisions necessary to move forward.
7. Strong PR leaders focus on developing trust
PR leaders need to focus on developing and maintaining trust with their team. Without trust, people might abandon the team when disagreements arise. Leaders who exhibit behavior like belittling others and having explosive outbursts will never earn their team’s trust. These leaders are considered toxic and are cited as the reason 73 percent of people intend to leave the company they work for.
When a leader has developed trust with their team, even those who disagree with their decisions will be on board with the direction of the project.
Leadership isn’t defined by visibility
Being a true leader begins and ends with maintaining a focus on the end result, not the glamour and possibility of personal recognition. That doesn’t mean a PR leader won’t someday be recognized in the world, but when you want to be seen you’ll lose sight of your original goal.