Erin Brockovich: How planners gain trust and become leaders

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Vital to being a successful planner, is being a successful leader.

Leadership is defined as a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.

Although many people may not consider themselves to be leaders, legal clerk and environmental activist Erin Brockovich says that leadership is being human, and that it is simply a set of values that most people have.

According to Brockovich, leadership qualities are integrity, trust, honour, determination, stick-to-itiveness, passion, kindness, the ability to forgive.

Speaking at the FPA Congress, Brockovich said, “Leadership isn’t something that is just reserved for politicians. Mothers lead their children every day. CEOs will and do lead their companies to do the right thing. We’re born to be leaders but we just don’t think we’re that person.”

Central to leadership, is the value of trust.

Before Brockovich could successfully gain a settlement of $333million for the residents of Hinkley, California, who had allegedly been affected by contaminated drinking water, she had to gain their trust.

Brockovich says they weren’t going to open up to her straight away and start talking to her about their cancer. She learnt that their trust had to be earned, and she says that planners can learn from her experience.

“People can be uncomfortable talking about finances,” says Brockovich. “People in the communities that I work with are uncomfortable talking about their cancer. That’s where trust is key, and integrity is vital.”

Before gaining trust, Brockovich says that planners need to take a step back and observe. Observe what is going on around people, and how you can respond to that situation.

“Most of the time I’m watching, I’m observing, I’m meeting with communities, not only in the US but at a global level. I’m taking a look at what it is they’re saying and listening to what it is their needs are.”

She said that people need to know that they can believe in what others are saying and that takes time, but not to be disheartened.

“I do understand what you’re doing, and I can sit here and tell you with total confidence, I’ve been there and it’s a process that doesn’t change.”

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