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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!


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.