Your Career and You: “Are You a Leader…or Just ‘In Charge’?”


Publication1A couple of recent actions (or, more correctly, inactions) got me to thinking about the difference between a leader and someone who has been put in charge of an activity.

To say that I personally was ashamed by the blatant refusal of our nation’s leaders to join with other world leaders in the show of unity in Paris would be the Academy Award-winning understatement of the century. It was a “failure of leadership” on a colossal scale.

But the action (or inaction) got me to thinking about the qualities that define a leader and how we, as public relations professionals, can best demonstrate our leadership potential.

Here’s my “top-three” shortlist*…

The first quality that comes to mind is “action.” And, no, I’m not talking about…or suggesting…kneejerk, unthinking action. I’m talking about firm, proactive decision-making that says to those around you, “I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and this is what we’re going to donow…not talk aboutlater

Next comes “confidence.” This tells others that you believe in what you’re suggesting. It may not be the most popular decision, but it is your decision. You made it. You believe it’s the right thing to do. And it’s going to happen.

Finally, there’s “transparency.” You make it clear to those around you…subordinates as well as peers…your rationale for having made the decision to take this action. Nothing breeds distrust more than a piecemeal feeding of “why.”

(*Note to the quibblers…there are other attributes. I know. These are my top three.)

Leadership is about just that…leading. People follow/obey leaders because they believe in their ability to make the right decision for the right reasons.

One of my favorite “old sayings” from my long-ago military days went like this:
“Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Are you a leader? Or are you just in charge??

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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Leadership, Planning, public relations, Thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Your Career and You: “Are You a Leader…or Just ‘In Charge’?”

  1. Arnie King says:

    I write to connect with you after reading several postings on “A Professor’s Thoughts” and wanted to share a few writings. About 20 years ago, Dante Germanotta established a college course with this prison. There were about 15 Curry students and 15 prisoners in the classroom at Bay State. We utilized 2 books, an assortment of literature, films, and guest speakers. It was a great experience, though I don’t believe DOC will allow it to be repeated. Dante was certainly a pioneer, loved by many because he cared. -Arnie

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    • kirkhazlett says:

      Thanks for connecting, Arnie. I’ve only been at Curry for a little over a decade, but I believe I’ve heard about that course. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were still able to do things like that?!?

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  2. Corina Manea says:

    I believe we don´t have leaders anymore Kirk. At least political leaders. My perception is that things go on based on an established system, and from time to time “a face” makes a public appearance.
    To lead is to inspire people take action. Haven´t seen that in a while.

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    • kirkhazlett says:

      Very, very true, Corina. I grew up in a political family (state politics) and had a chance to see firsthand true public servants who were willing and able to act on their convictions. Today it’s all about who can do the best fundraising. I keep hoping, though! 🙂

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!

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  3. Barbara Burfeind, APR+M, PRSA Fellow says:

    I’ve found through my organization’s mentorship program that everyone has the potential to be a leader and that there are “leaders” who may not be supervisors or people at high pay levels, but individuals who set an example through their work ethic, decisiveness, teamwork and efforts to learn and grow. While we may often be disappointed by the inaction of senior leadership, embrace the leaders at other levels. They are there, but usually they are not concerned about getting credit, only about getting work done. Just look around.

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    • kirkhazlett says:

      Thanks so much for commenting, Barbara. And you are absolutely correct…”leaders” can be found at all levels. The challenge for each of us is to recognize and appreciate the contributions of those individuals. I really appreciate your reading my thoughts and providing your own insightful comments.

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