Leadership for the undercover leader

by Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications, City of Escondido
CAPIO Social Media Chair

Congratulations! You have landed in the public information official career space. Take a minute to think about how you got here. For some of us, it was intentional; for others, it may have been a happy accident. For me, it is the latter. One thing I wish I had known at the start of my PIO career is that people will automatically consider you a leader due to the role you hold within your organization.

At first, this was a little overwhelming, but as I settled in, I realized that good communicators are natural leaders. At the core, leadership is more than just providing direction; it is influencing those around you to feel empowered and inspired. And I know that we all do this inadvertently.

Collectively, we have seen it all. The past three years have shown the importance of the role a government communicator holds. We are the driving force behind our organization’s voice. We are the ultimate cheerleaders for our campaigns and projects. We are leaders.

Leadership looks different for everyone. For some, it is vocal and front-facing; for others, it is behind-the-scenes coaching and support. However we find ourselves in our leadership capacity, it is important that we share our expertise, adaptability, and accountability.

Here are a few things I have learned so far in my career.

A great leader will serve as a guide to help their team reach a common goal or vision. It is important to keep a clear sense of purpose. One thing communicators are good at is crafting a solid message. Often a group can veer from the core goal. Consider yourself the keeper of that message, and don’t hesitate to reorient the team if needed.

We are natural connectors of people and things. Your relationship-building skills will earn the trust and respect from others. I am sure you have noticed that people often look to you to get things done. You know who is the contact at the local non-profit or know the name of the person who plans the annual July 4th parade. You are the connector, and in turn, you lead the way for others to share those connections.

Leadership takes on many forms. Sometimes that means holding yourself and the team accountable when things go sideways. Keep your confidence as you navigate these times. It’s super cliché, but challenges often lead to growth and opportunity. Being the voice that says, “hey, we can do better” or “we will do better” shows those around you that you take the good with the bad and can see past the immediacy of your situation.

I have always valued strong leadership and sought out guidance from trusted colleagues both in and outside of my organization. I am so thankful that I have a deep bench of professionals I can lean on when needed. You may not be aware of all the eyes that look to you or how many times someone says, “we should call (insert your name here,)” but I guarantee it happens often. You are important and valuable in your organization, and I challenge you to build your bench of trusted colleagues to help you along the way.

Are you interested in developing your leadership skills? Keep an eye out for CAPIO’s upcoming Leadership Summit later this year. This will be an incredible opportunity to refine those skills that are already deep in your tool kit!

Other CAPIO Leadership Resources

Teresa Collins has been working in and around communications for nearly 20 years. She is currently the Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido, and she would love to hear from you – tcollins@escondido.org

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