This blog is based on the original journal article published in the Public Relations Journal
Summary
Effective leadership is a vital necessity and can transform organizational performance. In public relations, executive leaders, especially Chief Communication Officers (CCOs), must be well-rounded in their leadership abilities to move their business forward. The Arthur Page Society suggests the CCO is now conceptualized as the pacesetter, and, with an ever-evolving field, these leaders must stay up-to-date on contemporary leadership styles associated with these positions to better meet expectations and improve their performance. More specifically, it is key to learn from the women in these positions to gain further insight into their perspective on executive leadership, since they are still the minority among the c-suite.
Taking direction from this notion, the author of this study explores what female CCOs believe are the leadership styles and traits associated with their executive position. To achieve this, predominant leadership theories, particularly transactional (managerial) and transformational (relationship-building) leadership, are used in this study to explore what female CCOs believe are the vital leadership traits of CCOs. From the results of in-depth interviews, it was found that female CCOs believe effective CCOs must embrace a transactional-transformational leadership style. These women believe this combinational leadership style helps CCOs to act as both a taskmaster and relationship-builder, which allows for better employee interactions and c-suite performance. Additionally, unique to this study are the descriptions of how these women describe being an effective leader in public relations, such as one who “leads with their heart and their head,” acts as a continuous learner, and embraces authenticity.Method
This study adopted a qualitative methodology to gain personal insight into the beliefs of female CCOs by conducting in-depth interviews with 15 women who currently act as a CCO or have been a CCO within the past five years. These women also represent a variety of public relations sectors, education levels, and years of experience to provide a greater depth of perspective on CCO leadership from the point of view of female CCOs. Information gathered from these interviews cover the beliefs these women have on the following topics: transactional and transformational leadership of CCOs, employee interactions, expectations of c-suite performance, and changes to the CCO role.

Key Findings and Implications
This study provides theoretical and practical implications for public relations leadership. For example, in theoretical terms, this study expands knowledge on traits associated with transactional leadership, such as intellectual agility, and transformational leadership, such as the ability to collaborate with others. Additionally, from a practical sense, this study provides insight into the current beliefs of female CCOs to seek to fill the gap in research devoted to these female leaders and their beliefs about the demands associated with executive positions in public relations.

Breann E. Murphy, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Jacksonville State University

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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