This past weekend I was fortunate to attend Public Relation Student Society of America’s National Conference in Atlanta. The four-day conference was filled with networking opportunities, skill sessions and career advice. Altogether, the event featured 32 sessions, 57 speakers and nearly 1,200 students.
Despite the innovative topics discussed at the conference sessions, my biggest takeaway was arguably traditional: leadership.
In a session with Eli Lilly’s Sonja Popp-Stahly, we were armed with the six traits of a leader. How do you match up?
Inspiration is not limited to posters
Do you inspire your team? In many cases individuals are responsible for their own inspiration. Although it’s important for professionals and students to understand what inspires them on a personal level, being a part of an organization that inspires personal growth is equally as important and often initiated by those in leadership roles. Inspiring your members to be the best versions of themselves is necessary for individuals as well as the company. An inspired team is an inspired company.
Give advice, not answers
As a leader it’s your responsibility to guide your team, whether by providing support during their first large project or giving them the resources necessary to succeed. Leaders are often the “experts” in the organization on certain topics, but that doesn’t mean you should be the one answering the organization’s questions. Lead your team to a resolution, rather than giving it to them.
Listen first, talk second
Everyone is busy, especially at the management level. However tempting it may be to cut-off a team member mid-question with a round-about answer, it’s important for their growth that you respect their curiosity and listen. Plus, what if their questions lead to a marketing breakthrough? Some of the best ideas come from outside the organization.
Delegation is your friend
One of the more difficult obstacles to overcome when you transition into a leadership role is understanding the importance of delegation. Although it’s tempting to complete simpler projects on your own, that doesn’t benefit your team or your schedule.
Empower your team
Empowerment is defined as “giving power or authority.” By empowering your team, you give them a sense of confidence, ability, meaning and influence. When you give your team responsibility, it helps them visualize their role in the organization and in the long-run develops trust among your members. Some principles of empowerment include: sharing organization goals and direction, communicating trust, allowing transparency and providing constructive feedback.
Be accountable, and your members will follow
Accountability is one of the largest struggles in organizations, especially in student organizations. As a leader, it can be easy to write off mistakes without consequence — after all, no one is checking in on you. When you set the standard for accountability in your organization, you earn respect and serve as a professional example. If you’re not accountable for yourself, why should your team be?
Now that I recognize the traits of a strong leader, I see those characteristics in the people I’m surrounded by. When I first started at Martin Waymire, I had no choice but to hit the ground running. Every team member is responsible for finding the answers themselves, and seeking guidance along the way. Whether they are at the senior level, or an account executive – the entire office understands the importance of continued learning and that’s reflected in the company’s leadership. I’ve made huge professional strides in the past four months thanks to the inspiration I receive from my coworkers each day. When your team believes in you, it’s impossible for you to not believe in yourself, too.
And that’s the definition of leadership. There’s no finish line, only progress.