Earlier this month I attended the PRSSA International Conference in San Diego, California. The student professional conference held a variety of sessions covering the latest trends in public relations and communications, however the most inspirational keynote was a discussion between Vincente Fox, the former President of Mexico (2000-2006), and Rhoda Weiss, the Gold Anvil Award recipient, about communication in leadership.
Fox told the audience his leadership journey detailing his experience’s in Coca-Cola, as President of Mexico and his recent philanthropy work with Centro Fox. He outlined the critical role communication plays in effective leadership, whether it be leading a team, organization or country. He explained, the best leaders communicate through two-way channels facilitating inclusivity and dialogue.
Fox touched on the current political climate, specifically emerging movements within our nation and others in the Western world to frame globalization as a problem. Nations are starting to isolate themselves from the rest of the world and barricade perceived “outsiders” from entering. Fox went on to explain the danger of this practice and the negative effects it can have on a country’s potential growth and development. By blocking out certain groups of people, you are also blocking collaboration and different perspectives, he said.
Fox stated, “We don’t need to build walls; we need to build bridges,” as the audience applauded in agreement.
He continued to talk about different leadership styles and how they utilize forms of communication. Some styles lead through power and strength. However, this leadership creates a one-way channel of communication from the top-down, ultimately instilling people with fear.
Other leadership styles focus on dialogue and communication between groups. Fox says the best leaders “do it with love, they do it with dialogue.” This style incorporates channels of two-way communication, allowing for diversity of different ideas and perspectives. Fox put it simply stating, “leaders need to understand that we lead by putting ourselves in other’s shoes.”
One-way communication also enforces the idea that there is a distinguished leader role and follower role, where the followers listen and obey the rules of the leader. In Fox’s communication dialogue, everyone is both a leader and a follower. We all have the ability to become a leader, it is an internal state of mind we embody. We are all leaders in different specialties and a good leader knows when to step down, allowing other leaders to step up.
Fox wrapped up his keynote session by highlighting the benefit of being able to work and communicate with others. “We are in this life to look for our own happiness but the shortcut to happiness is doing for others.” Open-minded communication is a key factor in effective leadership, and listening to different perspectives offers the opportunity for positive influence as well as personal fulfillment.
Emma McClain is a public relations associate at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations agency headquartered in Philadelphia. To learn more about Flackable, please visit www.flackable.com.