Leadership is vital for effective public relations

US airline, JetBlue has announced its CEO is giving up operational control of the business he founded.   News reports link the move to a major public relations crisis earlier this year when the airline’s reputation for good customer service was affected by poor response during two winter storms.

Neeleman fronted a video giving the airline’s response to the crisis – which has received 280,862 views in the past two months.  This was an interesting use of YouTube as part of a crisis management plan, and appeared to show good leadership.

But the enthusiastic personality behind this public apology is apparently not the type of leader required by a mature company.  Analysts are apparently unhappy about the cost of responding to the crisis – although without such positive public relations, the impact on the share price would undoubtedly have been much worse. 

Leadership is big news at the current time (I won’t get into the UK political affairs).  Lee Iacocca (the 82-year old renowned former US car chief and original ) has published a book “?”, championing the 9Cs of leadership:

  1. Curiosity – getting outside your comfort zone, listening to those who disagree and reading voraciously (particularly news media)
  2. Creativity – willing to try something different, being open to change and prepared to adapt
  3. Communicate – facing reality and telling the truth, even when it’s painful
  4. Character – knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing
  5. Courage – a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk
  6. Conviction – passion and really wanting to get something done
  7. Charisma – the ability to inspire and make people want to follow you
  8. Competent – knowing what you’re doing and surrounding yourself with people who know what they’re doing
  9. Commonsense – being in the real world
  10. Crisis – leadership is forged in times of crisis.

All these characteristics and capabilities are essential in leaders if public relations is to be a valued, valuable, strategic function in an organisation.  Leaders who are of the calibre Iacocca calls for aren’t interested in superficial press agentry but recognise the value of reputation, relationships and values.

Is Neeleman this type of leader?  Can such people actually thrive in today’s corporations?  Or is a short-term focus on micro-management and financial return preventing leaders emerging who really could make a difference?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Leadership is vital for effective public relations”

  1. Micro-management is all part of the two year moving on rule that is ruining many businesses. People moving through corporate positions with greater speed than ever before encourages micro-management, as the longer-term strategy and bigger picture visionaries have been pitched out with the bath water.

  2. Absolutely – also there is a tendency for management to seek greater control of everything since the external environment seems more uncontrollable than ever. Combine that with technology that enables everything to be monitored and checked – therefore giving an illusion of rationale management. I know many experienced, highly competent people who spend more and more of their time ticking boxes and reporting minutiae than being empowered to use their talents wisely.

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