What Leadership Looks Like
by Danielle Chase*
I’ve had tons of jobs. I’ve been a public school teacher, a campaign manager, a community affairs coordinator, a junior publicist, a legislative assistant, a florist, a community board member, a gas station attendant, and pretty much have held every job you can think of that involves food service, including waitressing, bartending, dishwashing, bar back, and cleaning staffer. But never before did I have a job quite like this one.
This was my first week at the world renowned PR agency, Burson-Marsteller (“B-M”). I have had the fortune of being selected as the very first Harold Burson Fellow. The fellowship includes four weeks with the Corporate Practice team, participating in numerous learning opportunities, and one-on-one mentoring meetings with the legendary, Mr. Harold Burson, in the flesh. Just this week, I’ve participated in a lunch-and–learn session, several conference calls, and a workshop with B-M South Africa’s CEO. I’ve learned about luxury marketing, global expansion, innovation and rankings, thought leadership strategies, and executive visibility. I’ve been on projects for three Fortune 100 companies, an NGO, a luxury car company, an investment bank, and a global beer brand, and it’s only week one!
In the culmination of this week of non-stop activity and learning, I’ve come to an important realization: that this is the best job I’ve ever had, and I think I know why. In critical business class we have been learning about effective business models, and the theories behind how to create one. My favorite theorist thus far is Robert Deming. Deming was a philosopher and statistician. He theorized that there were 14 factors needed if a business were to truly sustain and remain prosperous. He called this the 14 Points of Management.
When I was studying the 14 Points of Management, I increasingly began to associate them with the qualities and culture of B-M. Simultaneously, I began noticing that all of the mismanaged institutions where I previously held employment had qualities that were in opposition to Deming’s theory. Where B-M is forever focused on its mission and vision, other organizations fixate on short-term objectives. Where B-M is constantly giving its staff opportunities to learn and contribute creatively, other organizations impose limitations, stifle progress, and prioritize seniority as the most important factor to an employee’s value. Where B-M is constantly making efforts to break down silos—evident in their SharePoint databases, and their ongoing interactions between departments—other organizations manage rigid levels of inclusion, and managers take advantage of their authority. These are the differences between a functioning, well-managed organization where employees feel they are valued, and organizations that are doomed to fail due to lack of effective leadership. This is the difference between an organization where I would like to be employed by, and an organization where I never want to work again.
Mr. Burson and his extraordinary staff have created a world-class organization, one that truly exemplifies its values, and is on the direct path to achieving its vision. B-M is an industry leader, and I couldn’t have picked a better organization to learn the fundamentals of public relations, and real-world implications of effective leadership.
At the end of the day, it sure beats working at the flower shop!
*Danielle is the first recipient of the Harold Burson Fellowship program through The LAGRANT Foundation.
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