Dissent and the Failure of Leadership

Dissent and the Failure of Leadership

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Stephen P. Banks

A timely discussion of dissent as a critical factor that differentiates leadership failures and successes. This book explores the vital but largely unrecognized connections between leadership and dissent. From interdisciplinary perspectives the author demonstrates dissent as a critical factor that differentiates leadership failures and successes and examines how dissent is implicated in problems plaguing theory development in leadership studies. By way of conclusion new proposals for legitimating dissent as a unique instrument for advancing social development and avoiding failures of leadership are presented.

Chapter 6: Leading, Dissenting and Public Relations

Stephen P. Banks

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Stephen P. Banks INTRODUCTION It might seem odd to find a chapter on public relations in a book about dissent and leadership. Why public relations? And what is its relevance to failed leadership and dissent? The answer to the first question is that public relations often acts as the voice and conscience of leaders. In its ‘official statement on public relations’ the Public Relations Society of America asserts that the ‘public relations practitioner acts as a counselor to management . . . with regard to policy decisions, courses of action, and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities’ (http://www.prsa.org/aboutUs/officialStatement.html). To the extent that managements lead institutions, public relations (hereafter PR) is a key communicative go-between for leaders and relevant others. The answer to the second question is more complicated and is what most of the rest of this chapter will address. As to the voice of leadership, in mass-mediated societies PR is a necessary, if not always appreciated, tool of civic discourse. As Amy Goodman assesses those who use the mass media for communicating, ‘in a society where freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution, our media largely acts as a megaphone for those in power’ (Goodman, 2004: 7). Nonetheless, institutional communication in every sector – commercial and industrial, religious and educational, governmental and military, for-profit and voluntary – and from all positions of advocacy use public relations. To illustrate this point, consider that both Wal-Mart and its critics use PR....

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