How Leadership in Group Work Prepared me For Leadership in my Communications Career

Lisa Messinger

Lisa Messinger, Student & Alumni

The most challenging situation I faced as a student in the Online Master of Science in Communication program at Purdue University was one in which I put a member of the military through a boot camp of sorts. It was during a group project in the Core Seminar in Global Strategic Communication.

That core seminar was the second of the eight of ten courses I have taken so far in the Purdue Online Communication Masters program. We had a choice of two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for our project as part of three-person teams our instructor had assigned. We used state-of-the-art means of digitally communicating with each other – in this case embedded in the Purdue University online learning management system (Rouse, 2016) – since we, as online communication graduate students, could conveniently have been earning our Master of Science in Communication from anywhere in the world.

We were to select which international location was most in need of our abilities as global strategic communication practitioners and give evidence supporting our choice before mapping out the strategic communication plan for the NGO’s expansion. We chose (2016) in specifically rural Nicaragua, at my suggestion based on research I did before our initial team meeting that was included in the first part of our assignment that was due.

I had a Bachelor of Arts degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and strategic communication and journalism work experience. My teammates earned previous masters’ degrees and had worked in strategic communications in the military and at universities. Well into the multipart project (as many of the Purdue Online Master of Science in Communication program’s assignments importantly include full real world-style “deliverables,” rather than just partial examples), busyness in both their work and personal lives and challenges they had with previous assignments, they emailed about to me and each other and spoke about during our teleconferences, were making them question their confidence about finishing the project and staying in school.

I had success in both Purdue online MS Communication graduate classes I had taken already in breaking down assignments into small steps and staying focused on perfecting one part at a time based on detailed assignment instructions followed by comprehensive editing for big-picture items, like missing content or flawed logic. I calmed them and, with their permission, quickly taught them my system, some elements of which I later noticed in Leadership and Strategic Communication, my first elective, were included in our textbook by multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman (2007).

Instead of possibly delaying the project (which comprised by far the most weight regarding grades of any of the coursework), which one member had on his own written to the instructor inquiring about, but hadn’t heard back yet regarding, both members did stellar on-time jobs. This included promptly filling in some significant content holes regarding assignment instructions I noticed when I edited - as I had suggested and they encouraged me to do in addition to completing my own content. We received a 100 percent, A-plus grade, which had matched my previous solo assignments in both courses. Each team member wrote me a thank-you email, which along with their previous messages in which they questioned their abilities, I included in the follow-up document each of us was to provide to the instructor at the end of the group project.

Even though this experience was trying, not part of the “official” assignment, and was more extensive in unexpected mentoring than any I had in my long management career, it was among the most rewarding of my life. It also prepared me ahead of time, not only for Leadership and Strategic Communication, my first elective, but some similar motivation that was soon needed from me as an editorial Quality Assurance Manager at iHeartMedia, my external mass-media strategic communication workplace.

Friedman, T.L. 2007. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York,
    NY: Picador.

Rouse, M. (2016). Learning management system (LMS). TechTarget. Retrieved from Home page. 2016. Retrieved from

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Lisa Messinger is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.