The topic of leadership has been thoroughly dissected by historians, social scientists, authors, and trainers. While very little has been left unsaid, I offer here my accumulated observations over four decades in the business world.
Make no mistake; great business leaders are exceptional people. The best business leaders I have observed over the years get good to excellent marks from me on all of the following traits.
- Integrity. Without honesty and high moral principles, you cannot lead a business effectively. Employees’ trust and loyalty must be earned. They can’t be taken for granted.
- Vision. People need goals and a roadmap in order to achieve. Your vision has to be articulated and reinforced, or else your employees will feel that they are on a rudderless ship.
- Passion. Leaders have to have a contagious enthusiasm for their work. If a leader isn’t passionate about the organization’s mission and vision, how can we expect employees to be committed?
- Collaboration. The most successful teams have a motivator for a leader. Great leaders work side by side with their teams. Team players need support and encouragement, not someone breathing down their necks.
- Accountability. President Harry S. Truman’s sign on his desk read “The Buck Stops Here.” Leaders who shift blame to others and refuse to admit fault do not foster loyalty.
In the book, Lessons from the Top: The Search for America’s Best Business Leaders, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, made the observation:
“I think it’s very difficult to lead today when people are not really truly participating in the decisions. You won’t be able to attract and retain great people if they don’t feel like they are part of the authorship of the strategy and the authorship of the really critical issues. If you don’t give people the opportunity to really be engaged, they won’t stay.”
Schultz obviously has credibility on the subject. If we were evaluating great military or church leaders, the criteria would be different. Disloyal soldiers get court martialed. Disloyal church members get excommunicated. Unhappy employees find another job.
Great business leaders are not autocrats. They use their powers of persuasion to achieve consensus and support. Fear and intimidation are not in their vocabularies. Once great leaders have everyone on board, they make their expectations clear and then get out of the way.
In the days before Hurricane Sandy battered New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the entire Northeast was preparing for the worst. People flocked to stores for flashlights, batteries, generators, water, and nonperishables, and businesses called emergency meetings to review their crisis communications plans, if they had one. But so many businesses remain largely unprepared to handle a crisis situation, armed only with informal crisis plans—or worse, with none at all.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked complete devastation on the Jersey Shore, and flooded lower Manhattan in a way that hadn’t been seen in several decades, if ever. In times like these, the last thing an organization wants to do is scramble. As Sandy showed us, no company is safe—from the world’s largest banks to the small sub shop on the corner—and no business is crisis or disaster free. The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to have a crisis communications plan ready to go.
When I was asked to submit an entry for the Rochester Business Ethics Award, I hesitated at first. Why would anyone get an award for simply doing the right thing? But as I read the rules and list of questions, I became engaged in a self-audit. Is Martino Flynn an ethical business?
We went through the process of submitting the entry, and met with an evaluator who toured our agency and interviewed staff. The result: Martino Flynn was recognized as a finalist for an Ethie from the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation. This award is given annually to companies that exemplify high standards of ethical behavior in their everyday business practices and in response to crises or challenges.
I can still remember the sound of typewriters clicking on my first day of working in public relations. I joined this industry 40 years ago and never could have imagined the changes that would occur in the years to come.
Technology has been the catalyst that has sparked innovation for most industries, and public relations is no exception. I joke that when I first started as a practitioner, my tools of the trade were a typewriter, a roll of stamps, and a Rolodex. Today’s young PR professionals probably don’t even know what those things are. I never could have imagined Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; if I did, I would be a billionaire and Zuckerberg would be working for me. And when social media did come on the scene, who knew that it would one day fall under the umbrella of responsibility for the public relations team? Continue reading
Over the past 40 years, I’ve worked with–and against–scores of PR professionals. We’re a group of hard-working, often-maligned, and a little neurotic characters.
According to the blog PR Breakfast Club, to be successful in the world of modern public relations, there are certain essential characteristics that one must possess to fight adversity, capitalize on opportunities, maintain a positive image, encourage word of mouth, and build strategy.
Here’s the top 5 from the blog: Continue reading