PR Culture | Management vs Leadership

One of the many benefits of being a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications as well as a member of PRSSA is the opportunity to meet successful PR professionals, many of which are alumni of Newhouse. Just a few weeks ago, a group of fellow students and I had the chance to sit down and chat with a successful alum, Matt Friedman of the graduating class 1994. Friedman gave us some pertinent insights on how to become a leader in the field of leadershipPR.

After a long career in broadcast, Friedman moved to public relations and eventually started his own firm, Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications. After moving through the ranks during his career, Friedman was able to identify some of the most important knowledge he gained and shared them with us Newhouse students. My favorite point addressed the different ways a firm can operate: through a management culture or a leadership culture.

Friedman explained to us that leadership culture often works better than management culture. What’s the difference?

Management culture is a style of operation where the people up top direct tasks to the lower ranks and oversees to ensure tasks are being executed correctly. The manager usually does not partake in executing or completing tasks, but instead evaluates the quality of work.

Leadership culture is similar but instead of directing task to only employees in lower ranks, the manager, or here “leader,” is also completing tasks that may otherwise have been completed by associates. The leader participates in the same way that all members on the team do, they just hold more responsibility for the success of the account.

Friedman defended his stance: “Leaders inspire; they don’t direct what people do.” He adds that leadership culture encourages ideas to flow more freely and enhances productivity because each team member is on a level playing field and holds an equal amount of responsibility.

Now, this is not to say that firms with a management culture lacks leadership; it is just to say that both styles have benefits and flaws. For example, in a management culture, associates are motivated to perform highly because they aim to climb through the ranks and impress those who oversee them.

From my perspective, I think Friedman makes a great point. Working in a firm with a leadership culture does sound more appealing than working in one with a management culture. However, Friedman advised us students by sharing that the ideal career path should start of in a large firm with a management culture and then move to a smaller firm that fosters more of a leadership culture; this way, you are able to experience all types of jobs in the PR field<


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