Lessons in Leadership

September, 2017

Note: on August 31, Paula Ryan, Jezerinac Geers Director of Marketing, finished her term as past president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), culminating seven years of leadership on the organization’s eight-member board of directors. This article appeared in the July issue of the Society’s magazine.

There Isn’t a Single List of Leadership Traits

When I was asked to contribute my thoughts on leadership for this issue of the Marketer, honestly it was a bit paralyzing. The lessons I have learned have been so many, so deep, and on so many different levels that it’s hard to pick a few to share. Combine that with the fact that there isn’t a list of leadership traits that you can check off to become a leader. So what I’ve done is define a few elements of leadership that work for me. As you consider leadership, I encourage you to find and practice what works for you. Here are a few of my leadership lessons:

Be Authentic

To borrow from the ontological leadership model: do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it … because it feels good to be accountable, and this builds trust and credibility. If you can’t meet a deadline you set for yourself, say why and set a new deadline. Honor your word. Stick to this and you’ll notice the people around you starting to mirror your behavior.


Commit to Something Bigger than Oneself

This is another element of ontological leadership and focuses on passion and persistence. When you have a burning passion for something it makes working through the kinks or challenges totally worthwhile. No matter how tough things get you continue moving forward because you know the outcome will make a difference. My commitment to my profession is something way bigger than myself!


Ask Questions

Learn more. Dig deeper. Frame questions to get a new perspective on the topic at hand. Who, what, when, where, why, and how, questions can be your best friends. There have been countless times when I thought I understood a topic or an issue, but when I pushed a little harder another kernel or two of information popped out. With a more complete picture, I guarantee it’s easier to collaborate, reach consensus and make decisions.


Learn to Know When to Walk, Trot, Run or Wait

As marketer/business developers, we’re consummate change makers always pushing to make something better (remember that commitment to something bigger than oneself?). It’s the nature of who we are. But to do that successfully, it’s important to read your environment. Is your team eager to make that change, or dragging their feet (time to trot)? Your board is committed to setting the example when that new policy is adapted (time to run)? I’ve learned to constantly evaluate what’s going on around me to best affect transformation.


Always, Always be Working on You

Continuous learning and self-improvement are the keys to being the best you! Maintain a positive attitude about gaining knowledge, and don’t get stagnant. I’ve attended 15 consecutive Build Business conferences and know that this year at my 16th, I’ll take a home a wealth of new knowledge! Also, always ask for constructive feedback on where you need to improve and work on it. I’ve been working with a career/leadership coach for over a year and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made in me.


Define Success for Yourself

What does success look like for you? In your career, your firm, in your SMPS involvement. No matter what it is, by defining success you’ll create the roadmap that will get you there. Back in my younger days, I knew that for me becoming a Fellow would be an achievement to validate my success as a marketer and keep me engaged in something bigger than myself, and so far that definition is working for me!

@Marketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, June 2017, www.smps.org