50 Leadership Tips From the Plank Center

This past July, I had the pleasure of traveling to Chicago, Illinois, to attend the Plank Center Board meetings at the Union League Club. The Plank Center sponsored this year’s Leadership Rally for Chapter presidents and firm directors as well as the Living Legends Panel at National Conference, as it continues to further the work of Betsy Plank — founder of PRSSA and the “First Lady of Public Relations.” One of Betsy’s greatest legacies was her commitment to inspiring leadership within the industry and mentoring student leaders through PRSSA. I encourage Chapter leaders and members everywhere to become more engaged with the Plank Center and to use the valuable resources (all free, by the way) throughout the upcoming school year.

To honor Betsy’s legacy and to help celebrate PRSSA’s 50th anniversary, I asked the board members to each scribble down a few leadership tips on cocktail napkins to share with the members of PRSSA. I have no doubt that these might now be the most valuable stack of napkins in all of Chicago. Enjoy this list, chock-full of wisdom, from some of the movers and shakers in our industry.

  1. “Enjoy the journey and accept the challenge. Get comfortable with continuous disruption. Change is our reality and communications is central to the journey,” said Bridget Coffing.
  2. “Match what you say with what you do and who you are. Actions speak louder than words, but words count hugely. Pick them wisely,” said Bridget Coffing.
  3. “Find your voice. Everyone can be a leader, at every level. Be known as an honest broker, a contributor and a thoughtful practitioner,” said Bridget Coffing.
  4. “Leaders must be active listeners and they must listen to learn,” said Dr. Joe Phelps.
  5. “Leaders must be teachers and motivate team members around a shared vision,” said Sr. Joe Phelps.
  6. “Consider how you like to be led, and how you can apply what you do not appreciate from being led previously,” said Brian Price.
  7. “Be authentic — but be the best version of yourself,” said Brian Price.
  8. “Consistently set an example for what you expect of others with punctuality, engagement and effort,” said Brian Price.
  9. “Remember, mentoring is a two-way street,” said Keith Burton.
  10. “Seek first to understand before you’re understood,” said Keith Burton.
  11. “Be a business leader first; a communicator second,” said Keith Burton.
  12. “Be an active listener,” said Bill Heyman.
  13. “Empower and support your team and support their efforts,” said Bill Heyman.
  14. “Ask your mentees for their opinion on key issues,” said Bill Heyman.
  15. “Take due falls for your team’s mistakes. Never blame,” said Bill Heyman.
  16. “Leadership is all about helping others,” said Rick White.
  17. “The best leaders always let others get the credit,” said Rick White.
  18. “Good leadership is focused on developing talent,” said Dr. Bryan Reber.
  19. “Set up a feedback system that is based on anonymity,” said Rick Looser.
  20. “Make the tough decisions with input, but own the decision as your own,” said Rick Looser.
  21. “Spend time with the lowest-salaried employees in your organization; they will give you input you won’t get anywhere else,” said Rick Loose.
  22. “Do your research prior to every meeting — know who is in the room,” said Ron Culp.
  23. “Network, but don’t be obvious or obnoxious. Be sincerely interested in those you meet,” said Ron Culp.
  24. “Actively listen, ask questions, smile, make eye contact and show engaged body language,” said Ron Culp.
  25. “Practice what you preach and be a role model,”  said Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan.
  26. “Be open to change that benefits those you lead and society,”  said Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan.
  27. “Give back to the Society,”  said Dr. Nilanjana Bardhan.
  28. “Stay interested in your colleagues — be human first,” said Kevin Saghy.
  29. “It’s not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength, to ask for help and advice,” said Kevin Saghy.
  30. “Stay humble and retain a sense of humor,” said Kevin Saghy.
  31. “Always remember that leadership is about much more than management. As the renowned management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” said Pat Ford.
  32. “Strong communications skills are essential to effective leadership. Never forget that listening is an essential component of strong communications skills,” said Pat Ford.
  33. “Leaders need to lead. One cannot do that from the back of the pack. Be proactive; always challenge the conventional wisdom; keep a long-term perspective even as you address immediate issues,” said Pat Ford.
  34. “When opportunities or challenges arise, resist the urge to look for a template for addressing them. Be bold; be original; take calculated risks,” said Pat Ford.
  35. “Be sure about what you will never compromise,” said Mark Harris.
  36. “Be willing to take unpopular positions,” said Mark Harris.
  37. “Coach, cheerleader, inspector, judge, arbiter and counselor are distinct roles. You must occupy all of them,” said Mark Harris.
  38. “Humility is vastly under appreciated,” said Mark Harris.
  39. “The role of the leader is to define reality and give hope,” said Mark Harris.
  40. “Shush your ego and listen,” said Dr. Bruce Berger.
  41. “The leadership default is ethical behavior,” said Dr. Bruce Berger.
  42. “You’re not a leader until you have produced another leader who can produce a leader,” said Alicia Thompson.
  43. “You can’t rush trust. It is built over time with demonstrate competence and character,” said Alicia Thompson.
  44. “If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection,” said Alicia Thompson.
  45. “Questioning how things work and why they’re done that way will serve you well,” said Gary McCormick.
  46. “Young professionals can build their personal brand with a can-do attitude, unparalleled work ethic and openness to constructive feedback,” said Kevin Saghy.
  47. “Mentoring is what we do. We teach, we learn, we do. That’s what our life cycle is all about in this business,” said Pat Ford.
  48. “Don’t pretend to know all the answers, but show me that you are enterprising and engaging enough to go find out the answers,” said Julia Hood.
  49. “No good  ever comes from obscuring the truth,” said Julia Hood.
  50. Find mentors who will actually guide your career and help you know what to learn and know who to talk to,” said Ellen East.

To connect with The Plank Center Board members, visit their official site here.

Andrew Cook, 2017–2018 PRSSA National President, is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and a senior at Brigham Young University (BYU) studying public relations with a minor in global business. He is passionate about approaching social issues with the perspective to “do good better” and spent his summer in Washington, D.C., at the United Nations Foundation working on the Nothing But Nets campaign to end malaria. Cook enjoys eating chocolate chip cookies with friends, sharing crazy #Cookfamily moments on social media and setting aside #QuietTime each day to stay energized.

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