On a Friday morning in May, I stepped onto a plane in Memphis, Tenn. bound to Phoenix, Ariz. in an effort to learn more about leadership. I was headed to attend the PRSSA 2015 Leadership Rally in Scottsdale, Ariz.
I was fortunate enough to be among the 100 plus incoming Chapter presidents in attendance. As I look back on my experience, I am thankful that Rally focused less on identifying the qualities of a great leader and more on challenging us to become great leaders to our peers.
Everyone in attendance was invited to Rally because someone at some point this past year saw potential in them to lead others. It was humbling to be in the presence of some of the greatest future leaders in the industry. However, we quickly came to the realization that Rally was not about us. In fact, leadership is not about us. Great leadership begins when we put others first.
You may not be Chapter president. You may not even be a public relations major. But if you are reading this, I want you to have a glimpse of what we all gained at Leadership Rally. Here are a few things we learned:
Leaders are authentic.
Our incredible keynote speaker, Julia Hood, Executive Vice President of Haymarket Media, challenged us with the idea of authenticity. What does it mean to be an authentic leader?
Authenticity requires each member of a team to be unapologetically themselves.Teams thrive in diversity. Problems are solved when different perspectives are offered. Don’t lead others to be replicates of yourself, but rather lead them to be better versions of who they are already.
Authenticity requires you to tell the truth. Telling the truth always requires you to be ethical. Ethics are crucial to the future of our industry. We collectively determine how people will perceive public relations.
Authenticity means making connections, not just contacts. If anyone knows how to network, it is public relations majors. How else would we all be instant best friends with over 100 attendees? However, we were all reminded this weekend that making connections and networking are not always synonymous with one another. Building connections requires you to listen and be responsive. Nurture your network and engage with them regularly. Don’t network for the sake of networking.
Leaders add value.
I was guilty of arriving at Rallye with the idea of gleaning as much information as I could about things my Chapter needed. I was thinking purely about my needs, what I was going to do for my Chapter and what I could put on my resume that I didn’t stop to think of the big picture.
The big picture was that we were not there for ourselves. We were not there for our Chapters. We were not there for PRSSA. We were there for the sole purpose of learning how to add value to individual lives. We were there to learn how to engage with someone in the hopes of making them better, making the profession better and making the world better. We were there to learn how to leave a legacy together.
Leaders don’t compete.
As soon as I landed in Phoenix, I met another Rally attendee. Then we both jumped into the complimentary hotel shuttle with eight more attendees. That number multiplied throughout the afternoon as I met various attendees from across the nation.
Throughout the weekend, we learned important lessons that we could bring home but Rally was just a vehicle to introduce us to one another. Once we met each other we were then able to share stories, ideas and solutions to prepare for the year ahead.
I finally learned that this is the real reason to be a member of PRSSA. It is not a resource for internships, professional development tools or career resources, although it offers all of those things. The real value in PRSSA is other PRSSA members. It reminds you that you are not in competition but rather you are in the trenches together. These individuals are your future co-workers, colleagues and friends.
I am thrilled that I was fortunate enough to be gifted this opportunity. I not only learned various things to take back home with me but I met people I can call my friends for the rest of my career and my life.
If you are lucky enough to attend a future PRSSA event of any kind, I urge you to go. Be teachable, share ideas and be open to new experiences. If you do this, you will without a doubt be forever changed.
What leadership lessons did you learn at Leadership Rally?
Kate Friedel is a graduate student and 2015–2016 Chapter president at the University of Memphis in Memphis,Tenn. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @KatetheGre8.