9 Qualities of PR Leadership

As a board member of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, I was pleased to join fellow board members Bruce Berger, Ph.D. (University of Alabama) and Keith Burton (President, Insidedge) yesterday in a discussion about PR leadership at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego. 

We discussed our analysis of 16 leadership studies carried out by the Plank Center, beginning with four broad observations:    

  • Excellent leadership in PR is a complex mix of at least six interrelated dimensions:  self dynamics, team collaboration, ethical orientation, relationship-building skills, strategic decision-making capability and communication knowledge and expertise.
  • Leadership in PR may be different from leadership; in other professions in two primary ways:  1) PR leaders must possess a compelling vision for what APR can be and how it connects organizations with publics and the larger social system, and 2) PR leaders require a complex communication skill set and knowledge of media and new technologies.
  • Female and male professionals, and practitioners at diverse organizations large and small in the U.S., share more or less similar perceptions about excellence in PR leadership.
  • Organizational culture and structure exert great influence on the extent to which PR leaders can be excellent and effective.  This influence is greatest in two ways:  1) top management supports ethics and models ethical behaviors, and 2) an open and participative communication system is present.

The research analysis identified the following nine qualities or principles of excellence in PR leadership:

  1. Power of role models and mentors
  2. Strategic decision-making quality
  3. Ethical orientation
  4. Complex communication skills, knowledge
  5. Deep self knowledge and insights
  6. Individual initiative, desire to lead
  7. Transformational, inclusive leadership styles
  8. Passion for work, profession
  9. Change agents

The Plank Center is dedicated to supporting research in PR leadership and invites suggestions for relevant subjects for future studies.  Grants are made each year for academic research.  More information is available through the Center.

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