• Women Taught Me Leadership Lessons of a Lifetime

    by  • April 22, 2013 • On Public Relations Management

    Greatly enjoyed the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Senior Summit, the annual conference of PRSA’s Counselors to Higher Education section. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate on two April 17 panels, one on career transitions, the other on preparation for presidential changes.

    My remarks on career transition focused on the extraordinary women I have known throughout my professional career (and one I have known in my personal life).

    I was inspired by a quote that appeared on CNN from the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “If you need something said, ask a man,” Thatcher observed. “If you need something done, ask a woman.”

    I have been truly blessed to be married to a woman who has made the Thatcher quote ring wholly true to me. She has saved my life so many times in so many ways, and I have counted on her time and time again to get “something done” like no one else in my lifetime. She also is a gifted professional who heads an international non-profit organization, and she epitomizes all of the qualities of leadership I will outline below.

    I have been hugely fortunate to have as partners at each of the institutions at which I have worked extraordinary and dynamic women who have been public relations superstars.

    The Thatcher quote got me thinking: What do these outstanding and accomplished women have in common?

    They do, indeed, get things done. They are wonderfully energetic and unfailingly dependable. Because of their reliability and their ability to manage and handle all kinds of issues, problems and projects they have made themselves indispensable at the top of the organizations we have led.

    They are creative. They have ideas that stem from their inquisitiveness and their engagement in the world. And they are smart, really smart. They do not wait for someone to tell them what to do. They combine great thinking with effective action. Their ideas are viable and feasible because their creativity extends into a plan to put their initiatives in action. Best of all, these women have what a long-time mentor of mine called “flair.” Not only do they get the project or program done, they add qualities and elements that make it something special. They put the cherry atop the sundae.

    These women are self-confident, assertive, unafraid and able to handle the pressure. They express ideas and make decisions. They believe in themselves and they have the courage to blaze a new path. They are leaders, but they are quintessential leaders because they bring an emotional IQ that enables them to collaborate and communicate with people, and bring out the best in them. They have gone on and will go on to lead their own organizations.

    I noted in my brief remarks that IBM had recently issued its 2012 Global Student Study, in which it surveyed college and university students and compared their views to chief executive officers. Pertinent to the panel discussion was a question in which IBM asked the executives the four personal characteristics they feel are critical to success. The four the CEOs valued most highly were communication ability, a collaborative nature, flexibility and creativity.


    I am certain there were only a small number of women in that CEO survey, and that’s a shame. The qualities of leadership have nothing to do with gender, but the experiences of my life have led me to believe otherwise.