Leadership styles in the PR field

What is a leader? Should a leader be humble? Bossy? Encouraging?

Defining leadership has never been easy.

What makes a leader specifically in the public relations field? Is it knowing how to effectively use social media? Is it having 329,349,085 connections on LinkedIn? Or is it knowing when to use the appropriate style of leadership when dealing with coworkers and clients?

Learning to work under different leadership styles is a challenge. As public relations professionals, it is imperative to know how to use leadership techniques. I have been fortunate enough to have interned under incredible leaders. However, every leader is different, and it is important to study various leadership styles.

According to Communicating for Results: A Guide for Business and the Professions by Cheryl Hamilton (2008), the autocratic leadership style always involves a leader as the central authority figure. This leader constantly maintains control and power over her followers. One-way communication typically does not allow followers to participate in decision-making.

The democratic leadership style is described as leaders and followers who are making decisions together. The leader is seen as an equal of the followers, and together they determine what actions will be taken. This style of leadership involves two-way communication.

In the laissez-faire style of leadership, the leader is not involved in a team’s decision-making. Members of the team make assignments and evaluate productivity among themselves. This style of leadership only succeeds with highly motivated members who are each leaders themselves.

Effective teams in the public relations field have flexible leaders who are comfortable using the democratic, autocratic and laissez-faire styles of leadership at the appropriate time.

Working at a local PR firm in Birmingham this summer was an incredible experience because of the leadership I witnessed. I had the opportunity to observe teamwork and how the agency adopted professional ways to communicate and be productive. As I monitored different leadership styles, I found that the firm mostly adopted the democratic style of leadership. This was extremely effective because everyone worked together for common goals, and they were always so complimentary of each other.

My current public relations internship began as the summer came to an end. Working for a local board of education is a very different experience. I had to quickly adapt to working under the autocratic leadership style. It has also been an incredible experience because of the work environment’s organization and the direct communication from my leader.

Despite the drastically different leadership styles, both internships have been valuable and enjoyable learning experiences.

My number one piece of advice would be to learn about different leadership styles, techniques and theories before entering the work force. Working with coworkers and working for clients can be stressful at times, and it is important to know your own leadership style and the leadership styles of those who are working around you.

By Sara Sanderson

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