What New Leaders Need to Know Now

October 1, 2014

Anne Green
Anne Green

Author’s Note: This is my first entry for “Taking the Lead,” a monthly column focusing on leadership. Here, I’ll share insights from some of our profession’s most respected leaders, as well as my own thoughts. Why this topic? In my view, real leadership is one of the most important skills we must develop within the PR profession. If we’re successful, then I believe that we can enhance the respect that our profession deserves, increasing the role and impact of public relations in business and in society.


I recently sat down with Anne Green, president and CEO of CooperKatz & Company. Like some in the PR agency business, Green was promoted into positions of leadership at relatively early ages — vice president at 30, senior vice president at 33, general manager at 34, president and COO at 38, and president/CEO at age 40.

So she seemed like the perfect executive for me to ask: “What did you wish you knew about leadership before you became a leader?”

Green had a number of valuable insights to share:

• All things must pass.

This George Harrison lyric has become a mantra of sorts for Green. “The bad times will pass, as will the good,” she says. “Recognize you won’t have all the answers. Embrace the ambiguity. Accept the fact that even as a leader, you can’t always predict or control the outcome. In fact, predicting and controlling are out of your purview. This is something you must be prepared for.”

• Let it go.

Green recommends that new leaders should focus on immediate transference of responsibilities and skills first. This counsel came from the agency’s founders, Andy Cooper and Ralph Katz, who advised Green that doing so was a leadership best practice. She suggests being intentional and purposeful about letting people take responsibilities, and talking about it. “I want to give this to you and I want you to do it your way” are words that she believes leaders should say often.

• Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

Green says that she’s inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem that begins with this line because it reminds her that once you’re a leader, “it’s no longer about you, and your emotions and stresses are no longer at center…it’s about the health of the organization, the team, the business,” she says. In this sense, leadership is similar to parenting in many ways.

• You define your role.

Green wishes that she had known earlier that it was her job to actively and consistently define and redefine her role as leader. “Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to do it,” she says, adding that this is particularly important for younger leaders.

• Your strength will come out of your vulnerabilities.

Green advises leaders, particularly young ones, not to be afraid to be vulnerable in front of their colleagues. “It may be counterintuitive, but being authentically vulnerable actually makes you stronger,” she says, and therefore a more magnetic and more effective leader.

Ken Jacobs

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


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