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Mastering the Art of Leadership [The Anecdotal Version]

June 29, 2015 Bradford Group Administrator


No matter the title or job duty, as a PR pro, leadership is make-or-break. We must have the confidence to lead and consult our clients through PR and marketing strategies that move the needle. And in our own teams, we need the ability to delegate, guide and motivate others to help us crank the gears that get that needle moving in the right direction.

But that doesn’t make leadership easy.

Lately, I’ve been reading John C. Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You (DLWY) to hone these skills and become a better leader and influencer. There’s much to learn in its pages, but to explain all of the takeaways of the book would be like pouring a 5-pound sack of potatoes into a Ziploc baggie. It’s just not going to happen.

But one of the things I enjoyed about Maxwell’s presentation of leadership skills was his constant weaving of anecdotes and quotes from other leaders. Before I retire this to my bookshelf, I wanted to share a few of my favorites that have given me fresh insight into what it takes to lead in the PR industry.


  • DLWY: “Andrew Carnegie once paid Charles Schwab a salary of one million dollars a year simply because Schwab got along with the people. Carnegie had men who understood the job better and who were better fitted by experience and training to execute it, but they lacked the essential human quality of being able to get others to help them—to get the best out of their workers.”
    • The takeaway: You can’t work in a PR agency without working with other people, whether they’re team members, journalists or clients. And in the world of PR – you’re probably going to need some help somewhere along the way. It’s the leader who can engage, empathize and inspire who motivates others to do great work.
  • DLWY: “A Chinese proverb says, ‘If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for twenty years, grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men.’”
    • The takeaway: Giving up control is H.A.R.D. (For me, at least). But if you want long-term success, you must look outside the resources you’re able to cultivate alone. By investing in others on your team, you’ll build a foundation of knowledge and experience that is necessary to keep success thriving.
  • DLWY: “We should remember the words of Paula Harvey, who said that in times like these it is always helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”
    • The takeaway: Leaders in the PR field are up against some tough battles, and there’s no way, as a leader, you’ll encounter a perfect world just as you’ve imagined and planned it. Media is changing. There are fewer journalists fielding more pitches. Paul Harvey’s words are words of comfort. We’ve all been through the ringer before, and we’ll all go through the ringer again. Which leads me to the next leadership nugget…
  • DLWY: (Quoting from Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor) “’The one thing you cannot take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.’”
    • The takeaway: A good attitude makes a difference in any – I repeat, any – situation, and our attitudes are 100 percent in our own control. And if Viktor Frankl can stay positive in the most dire of situations, I have zero cause to let any circumstance keep me from remaining positive.
  • DLWY: “How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Four. One to change the bulb and three to reminisce about how good the old light bulb was.”
    • The takeaway: Change can be a hard pill to swallow, but in PR, it’s a constant. As a leader in an agency and in the industry, you must learn to be nimble and roll with the proverbial punches, lest you miss out on a chance for your team to grow and move forward.

What are your words of wisdom on leadership? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Photo credit: kipcurry, via


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