Leadership Masterclass – CIPR NW Wed 18 September 2013

Leadership in PR is a topic well worth further investigation, so it was great to see more than 50 local PR practitioners at the CIPR NW (Lancashire) Leadership Masterclass at the University of Central Lancashire Preston campus last Wednesday (18 September 2013).

Keynote speaker Professor Anne Gregory of Leeds Metropolitan University gave a guided preview of her new book on Strategic Public Relations Leadership. As well as exploring leadership roles in a PR setting, she flagged up the need for a clear focus on what PR actually does to support an organisation’s strategy.

Best of all, it was great to hear one of the UK’s key PR thought-leaders highlighting one of my own long-term convictions – that a real PR strategist is to fix the reality of the organisation and then communicate the better truth, not to create images or manipulate perceptions. It’s a lesson which still needs to be heard more clearly out there.

As PR in the UK is a profession populated largely by women but led by men, the topic for my own session for the evening was “It’s different for girls” – is there a distinct leadership model for women?” It’s a complex topic and could just about be covered in a short session, so I promised to give longer answers to one or two of the excellent questions via a blog post. Here’s the first one:

Q: Is there a model of leadership which you think works particularly well for PR practitioners?

A: I really wanted to include this one in my talk but had to cut it for time reasons. Here it is:

Kouzes and Pozner’s (1987; 1995) Five Leadership Practices Model , whose key target audience is really CEOs –

1. Model the way (walk the talk; show some small wins to inspire confidence)
2. Inspire a shared vision (including powerful, provocative language)
3. Challenge the process (be an agent for change – questioning, challenging, seeding new ideas)
4. Enable others to act (includes sharing information, being clear about your ethics and values, not being afraid to show vulnerability, investing in their CPD)
5. Encourage the heart (celebrate success – something we all need to do more of)

PLUS from Hefetz & Laurie (1997):

6. Protecting voices of leadership from below – giving a voice and a channel to counter-cultures and dissident views in the organisation.

Both these models chime well with PR, because much of leadership is what good PR practitioners do from day to day anyway. The leadership challenge for PR is to take this up to the next level of formulating rather than communicating strategy.

One of the many heartening things about last Wednesday was seeing so many PR professionals who are clearly up for that challenge. I hope we might get to help some of you get there with our new practitioner-level online Masters in PR here at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School!

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