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Friday Five: Becoming a Better Leader

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We often discuss tips to get your foot in the door and land your first public relations job. While this is a daunting step in your career, we have found that an equally intimidating step is taking on your first leadership position. PRSA’s VP of Public Relations, Stephanie Cegielski, recently discussed what it means to be a leader and opened up fascinating dialogue on the topic. Good leadership not only takes instinct, but it also takes practice.Friday Five Logo

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five”– an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and
commentary – we look at leadership lessons and tips. How to gain respect at work, break down silos, be noticed and have the presence of a successful executive are all covered. Also, in honor of Father’s Day, we’ll discuss leadership lessons CEOs learned from their dads.

We’ve All Got GM Problems (Time)

Due to heavy media coverage, most Americans have heard about GM’s ignition-switch problems, which resulted in user deaths and a widespread recall. However, did you know about the internal communications breakdown at GM that likely contributed to the problem? According to the article, U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas report uncovered “a systemic problem in most big corporations as well as governments–insular management or, in the parlance of gurus, information silos.” In order to break down these silos, leaders like GM CEO Mary Barra must foster a culture of openness and conversation.

“On that score, Barra is perhaps better placed than most to solve her company’s problems,” said the author, Rana Foroohar. “During her announcement about the report, she set a communal goal for GM–‘to set a new industry standard in safety’–and told employees to email her personally if they felt customers’ safety was ever in doubt. Silo busting starts at the top, and if Barra does it at GM, it could set an example for all large institutions.” Read the full article for more insight into breaking down silos.

Being seen and heard at work (Washington Post)

Nick Morgan, communication coach and the author of “Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact” recently shared his thoughts on confidence and leadership. Morgan argues that all leaders give off communications clues that affect how people view them, including cues as simple as how you walk into a room.

Morgan also comments on common mistakes made by young leaders:

“They talk before they listen. They speak from insecurity rather than security. They are afraid to say, ‘I don’t know.’ They make things more complicated than they need to be, in order to sound knowledgeable.  If you are a young leader, you should be saying ‘I don’t know’ at least three times a day! You should listen first, and speak second. And you should keep it simple. By the way, our elders make all the same mistakes, too. These are equal-opportunity communications errors.”

Read about all seven communications cues via the article.

Can ‘executive presence’ be learned? (Fortune)

There are many who have the technical skills to do their jobs, but don’t ever reach the leadership suite. The author refers to a new book called “Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Hewlett says that leadership is not something you’re born with, but rather something that is cultivated.

Hewlett’s work pinpoints three essential elements of presence:

  • Gravitas, or how you act
  • Communication, or how you speak
  • Appearance, or how you look

Read more about executive presence and how you can overcome mid-level career plateaus in the full article.

The Manager In Red Sneakers: How To Gain More Respect At The Office (Forbes)

After many years of simply trying to “fit in” during school, people in leadership roles are now trying to stand out. A recent study found that people who wear “offbeat” clothes at work are perceived as being in a prominent position and having more competence than those who dress normally. The author of the article points to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as examples of these unique, unconventional styles.

The authors of the study, “The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity” say a key message is simple: “It’s not only OK to be yourself, but it can actually be very beneficial. You’re seen as confident, autonomous, and well regarded.” Read the full article, including how your brand can adopt this advice, on

6 Leadership Lessons Tech CEOs Learned from their Dads (Fast Company)

We often talk about the career mentors who have helped us achieve success, yet fail to look back to some of our earliest influencers including our fathers. The author, Kathleen Shanahan, explains, “In honor of Father’s Day, six business leaders share the leadership lessons they learned from their fathers that still drive them today, from leading by example to the importance of trusting your team.”

The wise fathers of these successful CEOs discussed these important topics:

  • Leading by example
  • Focusing on priorities
  • Building from the foundation

See the full list and useful advice via the article.

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

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