2 essential gifts the best leaders can give

The Plank Center’s Bruce Berger reflects on a lesson learned from Betsy Plank on the importance of service and empathy for PR leaders and mentors.

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[Editor’s Note: PR Daily has partnered with The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations to develop our newest column, Lessons in Leadership. This column will rotate among Plank Center Board of Advisor members, their emerging leaders network and board alumni, concentrating on moments of personal leadership and the lessons they impart.]

My most powerful lesson about great leadership came in October 2007 at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) conference in Philadelphia. The association was celebrating its 40th anniversary, and Betsy Plank and I were there to deliver a special book to 2,000 anticipated PR students and join the festivities.

We were walking down a hallway to join a presentation when a young woman, a student, stepped up and introduced herself. Then she asked Betsy, “I know you are very busy, but if you can find five minutes, just five minutes, I really need your advice about a situation I’m in.” Betsy smiled and said, “It sounds like it’s important, so let’s talk right now.” They sat on a bench in the hallway, and I went on.

An hour later, I re-walked that hallway and discovered Betsy and the young woman still sitting and talking on the bench. The young woman’s face was tear-stained but smiling now as Betsy held her hand and spoke softly with her.

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