By Elle Waters, 1910 PR Executive Director
During the spring 2023 semester, I was thrilled to serve as the executive director for 1910 PR and president of our Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. These two roles allowed me to have the distinct honor of being WT’s delegate to the 2023 PRSSA National Leadership Assembly in April.
Spending four days in Scottsdale, Arizona, with the best and brightest upcoming minds in PR and having a vote in the future of the society was beyond meaningful. Appropriately, the recurring theme of the weekend was leadership.
The first keynote was by Dr. Rochelle Ford, president of one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Dillard University. According to Dr. Ford, the first principle of leadership is simple: live ethically and courageously.
She encouraged us to take the opportunity to lead by interrupting bias when it happens around us. The hardest truth she shared with us is that “even when you give it your all, you can still lose.” This is a terrifying thought to a perfectionist, but Dr. Ford encouraged us to embrace the risk and step forward anyways, recognizing failure as an opportunity to lean into resiliency.
As a member of the Page Society, she shared how important the Page Principles are to her leadership style. The final Page Principle is my favorite, and it applies to all spheres of life: “remain calm, patient, and good-humored.”
As I continue to grow in leadership, I am choosing to make this my intention: to remain calm as I take risks, patient as I take responsibility for the well-being of the team, and good-humored as I accept the lessons of failure along the way.
Rosanna Fiske, the final keynote speaker, has served as both the treasurer and the CEO and chair of the Public Relations Society of America and led PR teams for some of the largest brands in the world, including Royal Caribbean and Wells Fargo. She recently retired and has been on what she calls her “ERAS Tour” as she mentors and inspires the newest members of the profession. “ERAS” is her acronym for the secrets to success as a leader: Empathy, Recognition, Adaptability, and Strategic thinking.
The thought that most affected me was Fiske’s reminder on working as a team: “If you look back and there’s no one behind you, you’re not a leader—you’re a dummy on a walk.”
In the past, my greatest weakness as a leader was an unwillingness to risk failure—rather than lean into the risk and reward that delegating tasks can lead to, I held on to the control of making sure everything was perfect. I thought that I was protecting my team from overwork and negative feedback, but this pattern hindered my own growth and stunted the potential of my team.
Embracing authenticity and stepping out in courage allows me to foster an atmosphere that values the perspectives and input of all team members and empowers them to contribute their unique talents.