I was honored to be included with a group of my Native peers in the January/February 2018 issue of "Indigenous Post," a new national Native American lifestyle magazine published by Tracy Stanhoff, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
I was asked to answer the following questions about "leadership":
Q: Where or how do you find inspiration for leadership? Where or how do you find inspiration for leadership?
A: I established my public relations firm in 1999 in Washington, D.C., focusing primarily on Native country when I saw so much misinformation in the mainstream non-Native media about our people—distortions of our histories, nations, cultures and traditions. I decided that I would use my communications skills—speaking, writing and, now, producing for radio—and become a leader in my field to help Native clients present their topics and issues in a more objective and positive light from a Native perspective. Over the years, I have actually found a lot of my inspiration in negative articles and depictions because these things propel me to take action and use my communications skills to help present a more accurate picture.
Q: How do you describe your vision and/or mission for leading?
A: If you have a strong vision and strength of purpose, act as a mentor and role model to others, make decisions that are well thought-out and carried out even in the face of opposition, and be successful while also being respected for your decisions— that is my vision for leading.
Q: What are your biggest challenges in leading and how have you worked through these challenges?
A: My biggest challenges when I have held leadership positions have come from those who seek to undermine my work through deceitful means. I am by nature a trusting and honest person so it’s always an eye-opener for me when others do not act in a like manner and try to derail positive work and incite chaos. One of my mantras over the years has been: “keep above the fray.” This worked well for me in Washington, DC, where I lived and worked for more than 30 years and continues to work well for me today.
Q: How do you keep culture and tradition in mind while leading?
A: It’s been easy for me because the majority of my public relations work has been for non-profit Native organizations that focus on aspects of Native culture, such as language, history and art. Having knowledge and appreciation of many Native cultures and traditions, including my own, has kept respect for Native cultures and traditions at the forefront of my mind in everything that I do.
Q: What has been the most surprising aspect that you have discovered about yourself in your leadership role?
A: Most surprising to me is that I’ve accumulated a sizable amount of knowledge and experience in the PR field and, especially, in my preferred niche of Native country, and that I have a great deal to offer others who want to pursue a communications path similar to mine. I realized this some years back when I taught a public relations and marketing course geared toward Native communications professionals, and also when I wrote a book focusing on public relations and marketing for gaming tribes. This passing along of my communications skills and knowledge isn’t always apparent to me because I honestly don’t think about it a whole lot when I’m actually doing it. It’s only when I talk or write about it that I realize I have this knowledge and accompanying skills, and that as a leader in my field this should be shared.
Q: Please list your top three priorities as a leader in your sector.
A: In my sector of public relations, my top three priorities of a leader are vision, purpose and integrity.
Q: What advice would you give to those wanting to become a leader?
A: Gather as much experience as possible and believe in yourself, work very hard, conduct yourself with the utmost integrity, and be fair and good to those around you so you can earn their respect and trust. And never think that you can stop learning!
(Photo by Tracy Stanhoff)