Strategies & Tactics

Lynn Kenney on Confident Leadership

September 4, 2018

Lynn Kenney Highlights

Current job title: Vice President, Area Head, Corporate Communications, North America, RB

Previous executive role: External Communications Lead, Eisai Inc.

Other leadership positions: Senior Director, Head of Corporate Communications, Eisai Inc.; Senior Account Executive, Edelman

I met Lynn Kenney when she served on a PRSA New Jersey Chapter Senior Professionals Group Leadership Panel earlier this year. Here are some of her thoughts on effective leadership.


You’ve said that leadership is not always a choice. Could you elaborate on that idea?

Some people set out to be leaders. Others find leadership thrust upon them, because in that very moment they are uniquely positioned to propel the team forward to a desired result. When these leaders succeed, they may find they have a flock of people looking to them for leadership again and again.

What role does confidence play in leadership?

To drive performance in teams or businesses, leaders need to be self-confident in their ability to lead others, even when failure is a potential outcome. They also have to be confident enough in the talent of their teams to not always step in.

For leaders, how important is delegating work and empowering others? How can leaders learn to let go?

A good leader is like a lighthouse beacon: You shine a light on the situation and help your team navigate it using their own skills, resources, perspectives and experiences, for the betterment of the collective.

For many leaders, letting go of the wheel can be difficult. Often, they feel that the team relies on them to determine the optimal path forward and drive solutions for a project. But that’s management, not leadership.

There are many reasons why leaders find it difficult to step back and delegate. Often, it involves their own perceptions of what’s expected of them. One of the easiest ways for leaders to empower their teams is to identify a trusted partner who can candidly reflect upon the leader’s behavior and remind them of the value that can be derived by passing the baton to team experts and focusing their own skills on areas where they will have the greatest impact.

How do effective leaders approach hiring?

Too often, hiring decisions are based on personality fit, like-mindedness and shared vision. That approach might work fine if you only need people to repeatedly complete tasks in the same way. But the best leaders hire to fill gaps in their own experiences and perspectives. They also hire talented people who can grow into top management roles themselves. I look for people who will expand my views beyond my personal biases and challenge the way I see situations.

Leaders need a variety of viewpoints so they can leverage the best skillsets in the room. No one person is good at everything. To be effective, every team needs a full bench of individual experts.

You’ve talked about imparting wisdom in snack-size portions. What does that mean?

Many people, myself included, want to grow and develop, but we may have reached a stage where it’s hard for us to take in guidance given directly by others. I find that simply dropping a thought on the table at opportune times and then walking away gives it a greater likelihood of being considered. It’s like snacks: Leave them on the table and eventually they’ll get eaten.

What leadership tenets have guided you through your most challenging moments?

Here are two:

  • Listen more than you speak. The leaders I most admire silently guide opinions from the mouths of their teams.
  • Know your limitations and surround yourself with people who complement you and help you cross the finish line. We all have that one thing that holds us back; ask for help and share in the success.
Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Visit his website ( and contact him by email ( or Twitter (@KensViews).



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