Rebecca Mosley on Leading and Learning to Let Go

February 1, 2018

Rebecca Mosley Highlights:

Current job title: Managing Partner, Kiterocket

Previous executive role: Co-founder, Duo PR

Other leadership positions: Chair, 2018 Counselors Academy Spring Conference 

How can PR executives make the leap from manager to true leader?

Let go. Direct less. Question more.

As with most agencies, we started small. There were two of us. We did everything. Then we grew and brought in employees, who were great. But we could still do everything faster or better ourselves. Explaining things took too long. We didn’t want to let anything out of our control.

And then we grew some more. And the sheer volume of employees and business forced us to learn to let go. It was wonderful, until the time came for my second leadership lesson: that I was sabotaging my efforts at leadership by managing people. I told employees what to do, how to do it and when it needed to get done. I wasn’t teaching my team how to solve problems or create a plan; I was teaching them how to execute my plans.

I felt I was the only one thinking critically or coming up with creative ideas. So, I stopped doing my team’s thinking and started asking them questions instead. I learned that while their way may not be exactly how I’d do it, it was OK, and often brilliant.

What are the tenets that have fueled your greatest leadership successes?

The more skin in the game that team members have, the better they perform and the more they want to perform. Allowing decision-making to happen without my involvement, and allowing team members to stumble and recover without my stepping in, is still hard for me. But it empowers people to do well on their own, and to learn from their own experiences.

Everyone loves a raise or bonus. But beyond the money, it’s acknowledgement that your team craves: “You’ve worked hard, and you deserve this.” That encouragement and acknowledgement — both privately and publicly — is a powerful motivator, especially during lean times when large raises or bonuses aren’t possible.

What were the biggest leadership challenges you faced, and how did you manage them?
I call one of them “The Art of the Right Fit.” I have always hated to give up on projects or people. For a long time, when an employee wasn’t excelling, I viewed it as a challenge that required more hand-holding, more classes, etc. And then something I’d read finally clicked: “If you had to rehire everyone in your office, today, would you?”

At that time, the answer for me was no. We let staff go the next day. They weren’t right for us. And chances are, we weren’t right for them, either.

Another leadership challenge that’s left a lasting impact on me is one I call “You Can’t Do It All, at Least Not on Someone Else’s Schedule.”

A few years ago, I got divorced and merged my firm, all within six months. It was hell. I was single-parenting, tired and cranky. More than anything, I felt guilty — that I couldn’t get into the office on time, that I couldn’t stay late, that I was plunking my kids in front of the TV so I could work at night. I stopped feeling guilty when I realized that no one was jotting down what time I arrived at the office, and that I could delegate at least 70 percent of my to-do list and give my team challenges that would help them grow. My role wasn’t to be the woman who does everything, but the leader who shows my team how to focus on things that matter — both in and out of the office.

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).


Lucy Siegel says:

I’m sure that behind Rebecca’s success as an agency owner lies her willingness to subject herself to self-examination. Not all agency owners are willing or able to do that honestly. Many years ago I worked at an agency owned by someone who wasn’t able to do this, and the result was too-frequent turnover of key staff members. The agency owner/CEO was unable to see things from the staff’s point of view to see how the CEO’s decisions were affecting them, and that led to resentment. Yet the CEO couldn’t understand why the agency had a turnover problem. It all stemmed back to a self-examination failure.

Feb. 15, 2018

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