Leadership Lessons From The Great Recession, Pt. 1

As part of my leadership series for The PR Strategist, I interviewed 10 public relations agency and corporate leaders for their views on a number of issues. One of the questions I asked them was “What did you learn about leadership from the Great Recession?”

Here are the answers from four of those leaders, Peter Marino, VP-Communications at MillerCoors, Renee Wilson, chief client officer, North America, MSLGroup, Renzi Stone, chairman and CEO of integrated agency Saxum, and Todd Defren, CEO of SHIFT Communications.

Marino: I don’t know if the Great Recession changed my style, but it confirmed for me the need for flexibility, in terms of needing to throw out some very well laid out plans. We had to listen to the marketplace, to my own team, and to the organizations, and shift. That was a great lesson. (That’s Pete in the MillerCoors bar)

Pete Marino: Leadership


Wilson: During the RecessionIt was about constantly giving experiences to the staff. Opportunities they couldn’t get elsewhere. But what also came out of it was that authenticity and transparency got heightened importance: telling the truth with great kindness.

Renee Wilson: Leadership


Stone: Two part answer: 1) Being conservative with how you run your business and how you work with clients is always a good strategy to make it through the ups and downs; and 2) The Recession didn’t affect us all that much here. We had growth years from 2008 to 2010. We don’t shoot for home runs, but we get on base all the time. If you don’t try to catch a whale, you’ll catch a lot of fish.


DefrenBecause we grew during the Great Recession, and grew considerably in the past few years, it forced us to codify and communicate again and again, and formalize the rules that govern behavior. We stopped being loosey-goosey. We stopped assuming that everyone was on the same page. We paused to reflect more often than we had in the past. We’ve opened up more and more candid conversations, even about confidential business data, how we’re doing financially. There’s not much our employees don’t know.

Todd Defren, Shift: Leadership

I’ll be sharing more insights on this topic from other communications leaders over the next few weeks. In the meantime, what leadership lessons did you get from The Great Recession? 

Ken Jacobs

I’m the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps public relations and communications agencies and organizations grow and manage business, and enhance staff performance, leadership and communications skills.We do so via consulting, training, and coaching. To learn more, please click on the “Jacobs Communications Consulting” tab on the top.



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