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12 April 2022

Authentic leadership: the PZ Cussons case study

With experience at Sky, Warner Brothers, The Lottery, University of Brighton and now as Group Communications Manager at PZ Cussons, Anna Lane has a wealth of experience when it when it comes to helping leaders to be their most authentic selves.

In our recent Sequel Presents… A Coffee With, she joined Nick Andrews to discuss leadership roles, the changing role of leaders and how, as comms professionals, we can help them deliver their messages in a clear and authentic way.

“Everyone is having to update their comms skills in a hybrid world. No leader is 100% perfect at this and so it is vital, as an internal communicator, to build relationships and trust from the outset and work with leaders to launch themselves as a team and as individuals in the business,” says Anna.

“Top-down communication where leadership teams hold all the answers is gone but some basics still apply, including how you hold the attention of the room and the Zoom, human psychology, the need to focus on the audience and the message, and doing it all in an authentic way.”

Anna’s advice is to get to know your leaders and build their trust so you can appropriately challenge and feed back on what serves them well and what doesn’t.

We did this through bite-size training in communicating, the language of leadership and rhetorical techniques, not to mention firing difficult questions at them as if it was a town hall so they could answer authentically.

“It’s not my job to get a leader to pretend to be someone they’re not, but I can help them to let their qualities shine out and to be clear and concise.”

Today, leaders need to be purpose driven but with a focus on their own self development and vulnerability, says Anna.

“All around us are examples of poor leadership and it’s clear that leaders now and in the future need to empathise with their people who are juggling such complex private lives. Future leadership, more than ever, is about being tuned in to your key audience – and that’s the people who work for you.”

YouTube video

Anna’s top tips for comms pros who are trying to help leaders get their message across authentically:

1. Build trust with your leaders and don’t hide

Don’t hide from the difficult leaders or the difficult stuff. Lean in, get to know them, and pick your battles.

2. Know your audience

What you need them to know and do – before you get stuck into comms channels and strategy – forget that at your peril.

3. Pick your comms battles carefully

You can’t win all the battles so choose carefully. When you win the trust of your leaders then you can advise them that there might be a better alternative.

4. Treat leaders how you want to be treated

Never push a leader into that room or on that call without thinking how you would like to be treated. Prepare them as much as possible, then it’s up to them.

To request the full recording on authentic leadership examples at PZ Cussons, click here.