2018 in Review: Principles Guiding Today’s Leaders

December 3, 2018

To close out 2018, I’m sharing select sound bites from the leaders I interviewed for my column this year, focusing on the following theme: What are the key tenets that have guided you in your career?

“Be empathetic. Recognize the stresses your team is under and help them navigate the storm. Be disciplined and don’t get distracted. Being resilient is the most underrated quality in a leader.”

— Gary Sheffer, Sandra R. Frazier Professor of Public Relations, Boston University

“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.”

— Rebecca Mosley, managing partner, Kiterocket

“My approach is to create a vision and then give others the freedom to bring their own approach and style to delivering on that. I often talk about bringing your whole self to the role. I see my job as bringing out the best in people who work for me, not having them conform to my way of doing things.”

— Barri Rafferty, partner, president, and CEO, Ketchum

“Following your passion is key. Secondly — and this can take time — becoming self-aware of your actions as well as the culture you exist in is essential. Finally, I have a firm belief that anything is possible. That has always been a driving factor in my career choices.”

— Bret Werner, president, MWWPR

“Empower others to take chances and grow. Leadership is about harnessing the talents of a group and helping them reach their potential and experience success. Stand by the people you lead. When I ask someone to take on challenges or make decisions, I’m asking them to take risks to grow and maximize the effectiveness of our team. They will make mistakes and I [will] stand by them.”

— Michelle Egan, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCO, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

“[Leaders need] passion, honesty, confidence and communication. Without passion, it’s just work. No matter what you’re doing, if you don’t believe in it, you won’t be able to sell it. Passion is something you can’t fake. Honesty [is key] because when you’re a leader, people follow and watch you. It’s critical to do the right thing and stick to your core beliefs.”

— Kim Bardakian, director of media relations, Kapor Center for Social Impact

“Place the organization’s mission in the center and focus everything you have on supporting those goals. Hire people who are as passionate and committed to the organization’s mission as you are. Embrace different points of view and invite diverse thinking into every strategic discussion. Rather than interpreting differences of opinion as challenges to your authority, seek those with differing points of view and give them encouragement by offering them seats at the table.”

— Joel Curran, APR, vice chancellor of communications, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“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.”

— Lynn Kenney, VP, area head, corporate communications, North America, RB

“I’ve always believed in taking risks and creating change in my life and work. Change is a constant process and you have to keep pushing, while also celebrating your successes along the way. When undergoing a major change, you have to demonstrate commitment. When I thought our people were losing faith in our [business] new model, I tattooed [it] on my bicep to prove it wasn’t going away.”

— Fred Cook, chairman, Golin

“At the beginning of my career, I attributed success to ‘doing my homework’ so I would know as much as possible about a situation. But as the volume of information that I would need to study mounted, that strategy became less effective. I realized that being a good leader didn’t mean having all the right answers, but it came with a responsibility to ask the right questions.”

— Kym White, SVP and CCO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

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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