ITL #116 Agents of inspiration: understanding and enhancing the leadership role8 years, 2 months ago
A way to understand the real scope of communications inside an organisation is to know the virtues of its leaders. How capable are they personally when it comes to transferring and spreading information? And how good are they at persuading, motivating and
Many qualities are necessary to be a PR professional: diligence and efficiency; responsiveness to the new trends of the discipline; the ability and desire to learn on a continuous basis; readiness to solve any conflict; thoroughness and multidisciplinary knowledge... Undeniably these are the pieces required if you were asked to assemble a figure representative of this type of professional inside a global and competitive company today.
There is far more to being a senior PR practitioner than fulfilling the role of spokesperson or sounding board. Increasingly, PR practitioners are becoming leaders of great significance within companies. Their empathy and influence mean new perspectives of analysis are needed when we look inside Public Relations.
Fruitful agents of inspiration
PR practitioners must necessarily develop notions of leadership if they aspire to become agents of inspiration. It is not only a matter of being capable of optimising an organisation’s internal and external communication channels. The remit also extends to properly spreading corporate culture in all areas, addressing motivation and bringing about changes to make it more fruitful, in line with market requirements.
Leadership is a daily practice. Accomplished leaders do not convey over-eagerness or suggestions of selfish interests. Rather, leaders must develop facilitating abilities and harness team support in order to reach the goals set for the core business.
This process is enriched even more if we add the soft skills of empathy and sympathy. Any good communicator should be able to internalise and understand the different features and cultures converging in their organisation.
Farewell to abused and outdated hierarchies
This new model substantially differs from the traditional and ancient one of the industry leader who demonstrated his authority and used a rigid hierarchy to subdue any attempt to darken his work. Currently and increasingly often, leaders are called upon to discuss, arrange and lead the way to agreements. A more consensual style than was once the case is necessary in order to benefit all publics and partners.
Nowadays, we must appreciate this "win-win" philosophy if we are to understand leaders and leadership. Often leaders must take it upon themselves to integrate various partners through the messages they shape and the information they share.
If we consider the leadership profiles as proposed by Rooke and Torbert (2005), PR practitioners should go beyond the common action traits of leaders characterised to be: "opportunist", "diplomatic", "individualist", "winning" and "expert". The first type responds to exclusively personal motivations. An opportunist may act as a manipulator to obtain his or her own interests, at the expense of those of the company.
Even though diplomatic skills are crucial for periods of crisis, for example to prevent conflict and disharmony within on organisation that is being scrutinised and criticised, they are not the be all and end all. A policy of "not to fail anyone" might be considered as an accommodating position, neutral and even indifferent, without suggesting a solution.
Moving on to another trait, the individualist – typical of the lone expert behind closed doors – tends to build a unilateral perspective of an issue, without seeking feedback.
The "winning" leader
Meanwhile, the "winning" leader has a greater capacity to integrate different publics. However, he or she may also develop certain impulsivity and imperative characteristics that in the long term subdues any possibility of debate or feedback with either partners or subordinates.
The deficiencies of this previous type can be addressed by the "strategist": less pretentious and more discreet but capable of listening and of grouping key ideas from among all the team. He or she is a catalyst of change and a synergy-generator inside the organisation.
Probably one of the models less used by the managers and executives is that of the "alchemist", generally reserved for certain political leaders (Gandhi, Mandela, among others), whose actions go beyond the settings of their initial sphere of influence and trigger social transformations that benefit the whole community. Their empathy and sympathy with diverse sectors make them examples to follow, inspiring many people.
That said, let me be clear: leadership is not a subject separated from the role of the public relations professional. Instead it is a virtue that should be cultivated, particularly in crisis situations, when the conflicts trigger dramatic reactions that were not previously foreseen.
It is only with strength and trust that a leader can inspire and ensure their organisation is given leeway in troubled times. All of this must be done within the context of communications guidelines. These should set out the right direction and defend essential ideas so as to prevent reputation from being undermined and safeguard the intangible values of the organisation.
Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.
Currently, Dr. Sánchez serves as the Director of the Research Institute of the Professional School of Communication Sciences at Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru. She holds a PhD and MA in Communication and Public Relations. Her publications focus on the evolution of Public Relations in Peru within both an academic and professional context. As part of her contribution to the development of PR and communications, she serves as a jury member for several local and foreign associations.
Dr. Sánchez believes that an ever closer relationship between the business world and the academic community is essential in sharing knowledge and improving society.
Amybel Sánchez de Walther
Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.mail the author
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