Our Fearless Leader – From Hippie to Warrior
I was reading an article recently on the topic of leadership. Leaders themselves were interviewed about what they believed were winning leadership qualities. This got me thinking about the leaders I have worked with over the years – heads of companies, senior executives and my own leader, Fineman PR Agency President and Creative Director Michael Fineman, with whom I have worked going on 16 years. We hear horror stories about abrasive CEOs who have employees shaking in their boots. Then there are ones who want to be “buds” with everyone which can work – or not. There’s the “Office Mom,” the “Good Cop/Bad Cop,” and the list goes on.
To survive in the PR agency business for 25 years – especially as a boutique firm in the San Francisco Bay Area – you have to be good, get great results and make a winning impression. Great work speaks for itself but whom or what inspires that great work? A great leader; someone with chutzpah, “cojones,” heart; a man of substance. That’s Michael.
Our business is oft about storytelling. I thought on the 25th anniversary of Fineman PR it would be fitting we pay tribute to Michael Fineman and share a little about his story and why we remain loyal to our fearless leader who has taught me personally (and so many others) so much over the years.
Fineman (fin – a – men) as I jokingly refer to him, is a Philly boy and child of the ‘60s. He brings that sensibility to our agency – sans the leafy greens, of course. Michael ran track in Oregon, rubbing elbows with those who made Prefontaine a legend. He did a turn as an English teacher and yet wanted more. Michael made his way to San Francisco in the ‘80s working in the agency business with San Francisco legends of the time. He was cleaning his colleague’s clocks on the new business and media relations front, so much so that he decided it was time to venture out and start his own agency, Fineman PR. And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, in the same year, Michael got married and embarked on the journey to fatherhood. The rest is history. How did the agency survive and thrive during the roller coaster agency business the last 25 years? Great work; great leadership. Here’s what we as a team collectively believe makes Michael a great leader and why we enjoy working for him:
Leads by example – A coddler he’s not, but he inspires tremendous loyalty. Michael has built his agency on substance, not spin or smarm. We learn just by watching.
Recognizes talent – Michael has often said to me that he knows how to pick ‘em. And he’s right. He knows a diamond in the rough when he sees one. He wants each and every one of us to succeed and he pushes us, sometimes hard, to realize our potential.
Is approachable – Michael will be the first to laugh at his own expense. He is genuine; he cares, takes a personal interest in each and every one of us and has an open-door policy – whether you’re an intern or a VP.
Wants us to have a life – Michael is good businessman, but he is also a family man. He understands the challenges of juggling work and life and recognizes that our experiences and interests outside of work can also enrich us professionally.
Trusts in the team – Michael acknowledges that good ideas come from anywhere or anyone, motivating us all to contribute. He has created a culture of collaboration and cross pollination.
Recognizes the power of caffeine (and vino) – He regularly underwrites the Starbucks/Philz/Peet’s run and is a proud supporter of Wine Wednesday, our weekly “wine education” session. A sufficiently caffeinated team buzzes with ideas and productivity and some of our best brainstorm sessions take place on Wednesday afternoons.
Has principles – Michael is not only about the almighty dollar. He has turned down business that he did not believe in or could not ethically promote. Before going after or accepting a new business opportunity, he has often conferred with the team to ensure all were onboard. He takes this same principled approach to crisis communications which has earned him (and the agency) national acclaim.
Never says die – Michael is a fighter and has inspired us to be as well. We are competitive, we fight for what we believe in and we do what it takes to get the job done for our clients. It is this fighting spirit that has brought us here to our SOMA offices with a terrific roster of clients.
Happy 25th Anniversary to the Good Cop; my friend and cohort; my mentor and fearless leader. Thank you for inspiring me and our team.