Each week this fall, PRsay will interview one of the nominees for the 2021 PRSA Board of Directors.
Name: Jennifer Day, APR
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Current title: Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Board nominee position: East Central District
Alma mater: Otterbein College (now University)
Number of years as a PRSA member: 23
You held leadership positions as a PRSSA member at Otterbein. Did you see yourself as a leader from early on?
I was not a leader during high school but, during my second week of college, I was elected president of my freshmen dorm. I was encouraged to run by the dorm’s director. She saw something in me that I did not see in myself. I found, through the experience, that I was not only good at it, but I also really liked it.
In addition to serving as secretary and vice president of my PRSSA Chapter, I held leadership positions within my sorority and with the college Panhellenic Council, and was also part of a women’s leadership group started by the dean of students. My drive comes from serving — being a civil servant, as my profession, and giving back through volunteer service to the organizations in which I belong. I fully believe that you get out of life what you put into it.
At NOAA, you took part in an 18-month internal leadership program. What were some of the leadership tenets that you learned during that time?
Intense leadership programs are about looking deep inside yourself, to understand yourself and how you operate on many different levels. Being self-aware and knowing both your strengths and weaknesses help one to know what strong skills to build on, and what weak skills to be aware of and work on with continuous additional learning and mentoring.
One tenet, or maybe lesson learned, was the power of nonverbal communication in leadership, what your body language expresses to others and how they respond to it. One favorite workshop during this program was a leadership workshop held at a horse barn. One exercise put us in small groups and then, without words, our group goal was to encourage a horse, which we were not allowed to touch, to move around a ring and take a series of actions. What you can accomplish by leading and motivating through expressed body language — not just the horse, but also the members of the group — was an interesting learning experience.
How do you describe your leadership style?
Collaborative leadership is the approach I most often employ. This approach enables people to join together from different organizations or parts of a team to accomplish a joint task. It requires leading as a peer and not as a superior. It is about facilitating cooperation, trust and team spirit toward a common vision, active participation and team ownership of the outcome. An important part of collaborative leadership is listening and understanding all points of view at the table, and taking into account experiences and opinions.
John Elsasser is PRSA’s director of publications. He joined PRSA in 1994.