When PR pros are asked to define leadership, our first instinct is to describe the leadership characteristics of a CEO: his or her ability to motivate people, to articulate a clear business strategy, and to create believers who trust in his or her vision for the company.
We, after all, pride ourselves in writing policies that position CEOs and enhance their leadership personas.
The truly great leaders of the world, whether they are found in a boardroom, a classroom, a laboratory, a church, or an NFL locker room, have vision, passion, judgment, and, most important, a commitment to developing others. As former FedEx executive Fred Manske so aptly put it, "The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability."
Virtually all PR pros will admit to having benefited from an executive who was committed to their personal development. Why, then, do we often give very little or no consideration to an executive's ability to mentor us when seeking employment?
Far too few of us recognize and acknowledge the critical role mentoring plays in establishing job fulfillment and satisfaction. Stated simply, the single greatest determinant of job satisfaction lies within the executive to whom you report. Should that executive be most focused on his or her success and not yours, you will undoubtedly have less impact; your job satisfaction and your sense of fulfillment will wane, as will your loyalty to the executive and employer.
In his best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote: "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice." As a PR pro, you must make the conscious choice to actively seek out that executive who not only possesses more traditional leadership characteristics, but who also has an unwavering desire to develop others - for that is leadership in its truest form.
If you make the conscious choice of finding someone who will cultivate your professional growth, you will improve your chances of reaching an even higher plane of professional greatness. In turn, you will become a torchbearer for the virtues displayed by such exemplary executive leaders.
If you are fortunate enough to find an executive who encourages you to go the distance, recognize it as something rare and special. Relish the fact that few others have been given the same opportunity and that your potential has been substantially enhanced as a result. Make a silent promise to continue the leadership legacy: Vow that you, too, will spend time developing the careers of others.
The leadership legacy belongs to those who truly believe in the enhancement and development of future generations. As a manager myself, I can think of no greater compliment than when a former employee says, "I am a better leader because of you." In hearing those words, I know that the leadership legacy lives on and inspires PR pros I may never meet.
Those PR executives I have admired most have had a stream of believers whom they have led over the years. By leading others, these PR pros have not only had a substantial impact on their various organizations, but they have also succeeded in strengthening an industry that still struggles at times for legitimacy. Such leadership makes individual achievements pale in comparison.
Matthew Gonring is VP of global marketing and communications at Rockwell Automation.