Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
September 21, 2009

Role Modeling in Public Relations: The Power and the Influence

In 20 years of corporate practice I worked for a handful of fine bosses and leaders, two very poor ones, and one who was superb. I also was blessed with two wonderful mentors. All of them influenced how I felt about my work, company and profession. And sometimes they affected my commitment and performance.   

Leaders, of course, are crucial to an organization’s culture, success and reputation. And mentors can help us grow professionally, introduce us into social networks and open doors to opportunities.

But a recent survey of 222 public relations executives suggests the greatest value of leaders and mentors may lie in their power to “model the way.” The majority of executives said that role models on the job were far more important sources of their own leadership development than was formal education, professional development programs, or other resources.  

More than half of the executives also said that role models and mentors were the strongest influence on their beliefs about important leadership values and qualities. In short, many executives said they acquired leadership skills, and formed their beliefs about leadership values, through role models.

There’s a growing body of new research about leadership in our profession, and I’ll be talking about role models, qualities of excellent leaders and other research in my sessions at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value in San Diego. Hope to see you there.

By Bruce K. Berger, Ph.D., is a public relations professor and member of the board of directors of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama. Previously, he was corporate vice president of public relations at Whirlpool Corporation.

Join Bruce for his session, “Role Modeling in Public Relations:The Influence of Role Models on Practitioner Beliefs About Excellent Leadership,” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7–11, in San Diego, CA!

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