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Can You Be a Leader, But Not Lead?

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —Gen. George S. Patton

Think of a great leader or someone you believe is a great leader. What are their leadership qualities? What have they done to prove to be a great leader? These questions should be easy to answer, however, they aren’t as easy as you think. Why? Because the word “leader” is thrown around like “jedi,” “ninja”, and “expert.”

You can be called a leader, but not lead. You’ve seen the statement, “John Smith is considered a leader on social networks” or “When it comes to public relations strategy, John Smith is a leader.” In some cases, these statements are true. But more often than not, the word “leader” is not fact. For example, most people believe that CEOs or presidents of companies are leaders. But, just because they have that title, one shouldn’t assume they can lead. Sure, they may up provide stability and maybe even help the bottom line, but that doesn’t make someone a good leader or good in leading employees.

I began to think this week about leadership and what it takes. There’s an old quote from Vince Lombardi; he said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.” That is absolutely true. To be a great leader you have to show three qualities:

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

1) Trust- You need to trust your colleagues and they need to trust you. If you don’t have either, you are sunk. Trust is the ultimate quality in a leader.

2) Patience- You must be calm in the good and the bad times; especially the bad. Your fellow pros and co-workers will be more apt to listen to you if you show calmness in the face of rocky times. Regardless of your political beliefs, people like President George W. Bush and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed great leadership in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. If not for their patience, the recovery may not have been what it was in the U.S.

3) Humble- You can be confident in your skills and still maintain your humble nature. People don’t like cocky and overconfident, especially in a leader. They want confidence, but with the ability to show that you are willing to give credit where credit is due.

So, how can you be a better leader? Start by setting an example for those that will come after you, whether it be as a PRSSA leader or in a local Social Media Club. Want to be your own boss one day? Start showing people you can handle criticism with grace, you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of your chapter, organization, or club, and, most importantly, be trustworthy.

Who are good example of leaders? Let me know in the comments!


Three Steps for New Pros

[Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome Niki Ianni, a fellow Temple University alum, to the blog with a great and timely post.]

Six months ago to the day, I put on my new Macy’s clearance rack suit, smoothed my hair, double-checked my briefcase for all the basics and took a deep breath as I walked confidently into the next phase of my life – the start of my post-graduate career.

The all-nighter study sessions, thousands of draft edits and hundreds of internship hours… everything I worked for in the past four years had finally paid off. While getting here had not been an easy feat, full of dozens of applications, gallons of coffee and the occasional mental breakdown…with hard work and determination, I secured my dream job working as a public relations specialist at the largest animal protection organization in the country.

For those who are preparing to start their careers or have already just begun, here are my three biggest pieces of advice for you that these past six months have taught me:

It takes time. You know the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, there’s actually a lot of truth to it. I’m not sure why I thought I could leave my first day of work knowing everything and being able to do everything – but I did. When it came time to submit my first press release to my director for review, my stomach was in knots.

I remember apologizing in the email… something along the lines of, “Here is the release for your review. I’m sorry it’s not perfect!” I’ll never forget her response: “Niki, I don’t expect it to be perfect… nothing ever is. You’re still learning.” Sometimes you just need to remember that all of your colleagues who have been there for years started off exactly where you are and eventually they grew, too… with time.

You’re going to make mistakes. Probably more than you’d like to admit. But that doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you human and it teaches you lessons you might had otherwise never learned. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the mistakes themselves, but how you handle them that really defines your character. You can cry and hope the mistake goes away, or you can take responsibility and fix it. I’ve sent out releases with a typo, or hit send too soon. I mean, in my first month I accidentally called a reporter in Seattle at 6 a.m. (I forgot about these things called time zones) and woke her up. Not my shining moment.

While I was horrified and for a few brief moments thought, “Okay…surely this is the one to ‘end’ my career,” I instead found ways to resolve each problem and instilled practices that would prevent them from ever happening again. Because that’s the thing about mistakes – it’s okay to make them occasionally, so long as you never make the same one twice.

You have a voice – don’t be afraid to use it. I’m fortunate to work with a team of highly accomplished and talented professionals who have been honing their craft for many years. So naturally it was a bit intimidating to call these people my colleagues because in comparison to their experience, I felt way out of my league. Remember you were hired for a reason. Yes, your co-workers may have been in the industry for a decade and have a great deal they can teach you, however don’t discount the skills and knowledge that you can bring to the table as well.

Sometimes it’s your lack of experience that can be your greatest asset as you’re able to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that may have never been considered before. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions – it will only make your team that much stronger.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can remember is to believe in yourself. Believe in your talents, your knowledge and your skills – because this opportunity didn’t just come to you; you created it. Never lose sight of that.

Niki Ianni is a recent Temple University graduate where she majored in strategic communication with a concentration in public relations. At Temple, Niki served as the former director of PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s first student-run PR firm and was an executive board member for Temple PRSSA. She now resides in the Washington, D.C. area where she works as the public relations specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.

Follow her on Twitter @NikiMIanni or read her blog at

Monday Minute: Teamwork

“How do we do this?” – Hawkeye  “As a team.” – Captain America

Teamwork… it seems so easy. But, then why do so many businesses, companies, etc. find it hard to build the right team? In today’s Monday Minute, we discuss teamwork, with some help from “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

How do you build your team?

What the Avengers can teach you about PR

I have no problem admitting that I’m passionate about public relations, social media marketing, and teamwork. But, I’m also a huge super hero geek. Seeing how Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have been placed on the big screen has been awesome. On Friday, May 4, The Avengers opens in theaters around North America.

I’ve done posts before on how Tony Stark taught me a thing or two. Now, I’d like to offer you five ways the Avengers can help your PR efforts. Some assembly is required, though.

1. Understanding each person’s strengths- No one member of your team is the same. Take the time to learn who is part of your team and how they can help. The person you feel is the weak link, may just need a different task to work on.

2. Leadership comes from every member- In the Avengers, Steve Rogers is a captain; Thor is a demigod; Iron Man (Tony Stark) is (basically) a genius. Who would be the leader? While one person may be considered top dog, every person can lead in their own way. If you trust your team, you know you can give them a task and be a strong leader for a plan or campaign.

3. Dealing with egos- From time to time, we have all dealt with “that person.” He/she has a healthy opinion of themselves. Heck, Tony Stark is a pretty confident and has a big ego. But, when working with a client like this, you can’t knock heads. You need to manage a client and let them know they are important, but part of the team. Show your client his ideas are good (“I really like how you framed this idea.”), then add your insight (“and I really think with the additions of XX and XX, this can be a winning campaign.”).

4. Adversity builds character- It’s not a secret that every PR/marketing/social media campaign will not be easy. It’s the challenges that will help shape you and your team. Nick Fury’s line, “We are hopelessly outgunned” is a perfect example of the adversity the Avengers face. But, within this seemingly impossible task, the team learns how to succeed. You may fail occasionally; but this is where you lick your wounds and gain strength.

5. Believe in your team- Sniping behind people’s backs and undermining what you are doing as a group is a sure sign that your campaign will fail. You may see a member slip up a bit, but you chose them. Believe that they can complete the task for the client. And show them your appreciation for a job well done. Maybe it’s lunch or a simple coffee break for your team. Good karma within goes a long way to outbound success.

Assemble your team and believe that their efforts will win the day. Your team could be “PR’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Monday Minute: Leadership

Are you a leader? There’s often the thought that just because you are in a leadership position, you must be one. I discuss leadership in today’s Minute.

What are your thoughts on leadership? Let me know in the comments.

Monday Minute: Leadership

Leadership is a topic that is debated frequently. Who is a good leader? Why are they effective? Today’s minute discusses these issues.

What do you think makes a good leader? Let me know in the comments.

Points of Leadership

I received President George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points” as a gift for Christmas.  As someone who is a history buff and enjoys reading about how president’s think, I was eager to dive in.  There have been 44 men that have led our country and each one was different from the other.  All have had their own difficult decisions: war, economic uncertainty and political turmoil.

As I read “Decision Points,” two things continued to strike me: Leadership requires good listening skills and trust in those around you. Whether it’s the oval office or your PR firm, success can be determined by how good you are at trusting your instincts and having a team of solid, critical thinkers. It is also what should appeal to you when interviewing for a job as well.

Courtesy: White House Historical Library

How do you build up your own leadership skills? It’s simple. Never stop learning and listening. Presidents aren’t experts and neither are senior level PR pros. But, they choose employees and advisors that (hopefully) help strengthen the country or a firm. In turn, they add to a leader’s skill set.

Here are five ways you can become a better, stronger leader:

1) Open your mind– Don’t believe the first thing you hear. Research and understand both sides of a story or person.

2) Think, Think, Think- I firmly believe that you shouldn’t make snap decisions when it comes to life and career. Look at all your options.

3) Respect your competition- See what they do right and don’t criticize them in the process. Set the standard for doing it right… your way.

4) Make it happen- People want to respect you.  Give them a reason to do so and follow-up on mails, phone calls, promptly. Receive a business card from someone? Drop an email to show you respected the time you chatted.

5) Be yourself- Don’t put on an act because people can see through a fake.  Be the same person you are when presenting at a conference, in the classroom, or over the phone.

Leadership doesn’t happen overnight; it’s developed and nurtured. The only way to start on the path to being a good leader is starting right now.

Whose leadership qualities do you emulate? How are you setting the stage for being a better leader? Let me know in the comments.