Seven qualities of highly influential corporate relations leaders

Over the past year, during a re-staffing of our corporate relations team, I questioned colleagues about the qualities they thought would define the next wave of outstanding leaders in our function.

Over the past year, during a re-staffing of our corporate relations team, I questioned colleagues about the qualities they thought would define the next wave of outstanding leaders in our function. Are the “must haves” of today's social and digital era different from those of the past? And will they be different from those of the future?

You be the judge. Here are the seven qualities my colleagues highlighted:

Alchemistic: Unafraid to forge into the unknown and try new things. Insatiably curious. Always placing and cultivating many little “bets” to see which will turn into growth drivers. Healthy appetite for calculated risk-taking, always with the goal of delivering big new ideas for the business.

Quick to synthesize: Constantly processes information and, through chaos, spots trends, themes, and opportunities.

Agile: Quick and voracious learner who embraces the latest and greatest technology or trend.

A master of influence: Effective at driving internal and external agendas, and unifying disparate groups toward a common goal. A zealot for reputation management and building trust, with unyieldingly high integrity. Able to seamlessly convey ideas in a crisp, persuasive way.

Global: Able to operate successfully in a global context. Mobile.

A captivating leader: Paints a picture of the future and leads teams to it, flexing to get the most from each player. A developer of talent, an unflappable conductor in times of crisis, and at times a sprinkler of pixie dust.

A deliverer of results: A master of execution with no-compromise urgency about realizing the mission.

Interestingly, as you consider what has been required of communications greats like General Electric's Gary Sheffer and IBM's Jon Iwata over the past 20 years, it's clear that all of these apply to them. What I find even more interesting is that these seven traits are not specific to corporate relations. These are traits, more broadly, of outstanding business leaders.

I think that means we've made it. We're no longer restricted by the four walls of our function and tactical skill sets. To hit the bar of excellence and justify the seat we've earned at the table, today we are expected to behave like world-class business visionaries. And I know we wouldn't have it any other way.

Stacey Tank is SVP and chief corporate relations officer at Heineken.

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