Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Plank Center's Leadership Summit in Chicago, where an international team of scholars unveiled the results of the Cross-Cultural Study of Leadership in Public Relations and Communication Management. Wow.
The team was led by Dr. Bruce Berger, University of Alabama, and (in the interest of full disclosure) it included two of my Grady College colleagues, Dr. Bryan Reber and Dr. Juan Meng, along with a former student, Baiba Petersone. Together they recruited almost 4500 participants speaking 9 languages in 23 countries from Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia.
I won't try to recap even the highlights, although you can read them in the "Key Themes and Findings" document linked above. But here are a few things that struck me most.
Ansgar Zerfuss described the 10 key issues in the field:
- Speed and volume of information
- Dealing with crises
- Digital revolution, rise of social media
- Employee engagement
- Measurement of effectiveness
- Demands for transparency
- Finding and retaining top talent
- Corporate social responsibility
- Meeting communication needs in diverse cultures
- Improving the image of the profession
When asked which of these ten are most important in their own organizations, however, respondents changed the order to Speed/volume, Digital revolution, and Measurement.
Juan Meng described seven dimensions of leadership skills/abilities, which respondents rated in the following order:
- Possessing communication knowledge to develop appropriate strategies, plans and messages
- Participating in strategic decision making
- Possessing a strong ethical orientation and values to guide actions
- Having the ability to build and manage work teams
- Providing a compelling vision for how communication can help the organization
- Having the ability to develop coalitions inside and outside the organization
- Working in an organization that supports two-way communication and shared power
The importance of these dimensions varied by issue; so, for example, #1, communication knowledge, was most important for two issues, measurement and crisis management.
Yan Jin discussed the implications for developing future leaders, beginning with a quote that I think we all loved: "...if we are to be a bridge, we have to be willing to be walked on." The top rated items were:
- Strengthen change management skills and capabilities (11 of 12 countries/regions rated this first)
- Improve the listening skills of professionals
- Enhance conflict management skills
- Develop better measures to document the value and contributions of PR
- Strengthen the business component of communication education
- Increase cultural sensitivity and understanding
- Enhance professional skills in coping with work related stress
- Develop training to enhance the emotional intelligence of professionals
- Impose tough penalties on ethical violators
- Urge professional associations to work together to develop leaders
- Devlop a core global education curriculum
- Require professional licensing or accreditation
After further analysis the recommendations were grouped into two categories -- software (soft skills of individuals) and hardware (professional and educational structures).
There is so much more to this study, including intriguing differences by country/region, gender and age, so I hope you will take the time to look at the larger study (slides from the Summit). I'm sure much of it will be published, but why wait? This is fascinating stuff!