New book reflects on the ‘crucibles’ that build ethical leaders

December 20, 2023 • Jonathan McVerry

Leadership development in public relations: Exploring crucibles of experience among industry veterans

A new book by Page Center senior research fellow Marlene Neill offers a perspective of public relations leadership that is often overlooked. Instead of only focusing on success stories, the book shares personal accounts directly from leaders about their real-life challenges and struggles and the lessons learned from them. It also summarizes the ethical implications these “crucibles” have and how they can inspire young communicators to one day lead with integrity.

Published by Routledge Books, “Leadership development in public relations: Exploring crucibles of experience among industry veterans” can be pre-ordered starting on December 29. The book will be available on January 19, 2024. Routledge is having a 20 percent off end-of-the-year sale on all books and eBooks.

“When people share their life stories, they often focus on the achievements and the things that went well,” said Neill, associate professor at Baylor University. “In this book, we address some of their weaknesses too, and some low points in their lives. They reflect on the lessons they learned from those experiences, which I think can be eye opening for young professionals.”

The book is built on interviews with 40 members of the PRSA College of Fellows, an active group of public relations leaders who, according to Neill, have been identified by industry peers as “role models and exemplars of the industry.” Neill and Katie Place, professor at Quinnipiac University, conducted the interviews between July of 2022 and August of 2023. Interviewees represent a wide range of areas, including agency, education, military and nonprofit experts. Students and young professionals will not only get a unique storytelling experience, but they will also be immersed in the reflection process.

“When you go through challenges, it’s important to take time to think about what you learned from the experience,” Neill said. “You will have to deal with times where you didn't live up to your expectations and you think about what kind of person you are and what kind of person you want to be. That process can be difficult, but that’s how you learn and grow.”

The book’s chapters are intentionally organized based on research that Neill and collaborator Juan Meng conducted in 2022, which looks at the journey one takes when experiencing, reflecting and learning from personal and professional crucibles.

Neill-Meng Table

Chapters in the book include developing one’s identity, going through challenges, reflecting on the experience and forming wisdom by looking back at the experience. Each lesson is delivered through an ethical lens, which shapes the leadership qualities that can power the ethical and responsible leaders of tomorrow.

The interviews originate from an oral history project. The discussions are edited and archived at Baylor University’s Oral History Institute. Page Center director Denise Bortree and former chair of PRSA College of Fellows Margaret Ann Hennen provided forewords for the book. The Page Center, along with the PRSA College of Fellows and Baylor Oral History Institute, supported this project.