P.C.Pop with Pablo

My New BFF, Diane Rehm

In Diane Rehm, Howard Gardner, Kouzes, Leadership, Malavenda, NPR, Pablo Malavenda, Posner, Purdue, Uncategorized, WBAA on June 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm


Authentic & Incredibly Credible – Leader & Voice

We all love certain celebrities and have expectations for what they’re really like.  Occasionally we get the chance to meet these celebs and our expectations are tested.  I recently met one of my favorite National Public Radio personalities, and she far exceeded all of my expectations. The experience from beginning to end was such a joy! Diane Rehm is my NBFF.

Days after declaring Diane Rehm my new BFF — I was driven to figure this out.  How did she do it?  How do some people have the power to give us hope, make us comfortable and make us feel loved and valued — so deeply, so quickly? I immediately thought of Diane Rehm as our leader, our savior in a sense; someone who is authentic, smart, and forward thinking.


Diane Rehm, popular radio host of the daily NPR program, the Diane Rehm Show, came to town last week to be a part of the 90th anniversary celebration of our public radio station, WBAA, public radio at Purdue University-West Lafayette, Indiana.

WBAA Staff with Diane Rehm

WBAA Staff with Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm was the keynote at the hoity-toity Gala evening event and at the Women in Leadership breakfast. At both events, Diane Rehm shared stories of her life and career and then entertained questions from the audience. I was lucky enough to be able to attend both events — and was able to meet her both times. Diane Rehm is charming, gracious, witty, inspiring, visionary, passionate, honest, and very smart. Diane Rehm confided in and trusted us like friends. She shared stories of her personal journey, her worries, and gave us much to ponder on a local, national and global level. Diane is one of us; she understands our fears and gives us hope; and we are ready to march with her to fight for a better future for all. Diane is a charismatic, developed leader. Diane Rehm has Incredible Credibility. Diane Rehm is genuine and authentic. After a short time, everyone fell in love and truly felt like her new BFF. If you liked her before the event, you loved her like a dear friend after these events. 

After 25 years of hosting speakers and keynotes, I assure you this is not always the case — in fact, it is rare. When hosting a celebrity, I would meet with them before they hit the stage. Most of the time, I was unimpressed and found the pre-show conversation difficult and awkward. Often times the speaker was demanding, rude, and hard to please. I once had a speaker show up two hours late — missing the VIP dinner with student leaders before the show and making the audience wait an hour before starting their presentation. I have experienced and seen so much that I have become a bit cynical and often have very low expectations. That’s why when you meet someone like Diane Rehm it is worth shouting about (or at least blogging about).


I am not surprised.  The characteristics we admire in our leaders are embodied in Diane Rehm.  My theory for how Diane Rehm so successfully won us over has to do with her Incredible Credibility.

Diane Rehm & Kristin Malavenda, WBAA news producer

Diane Rehm & Kristin Malavenda, WBAA news producer

Credibility is complex because it  includes a variety of different characteristics like being honest, inspiring, visionary, and competent, to name a few. DR exudes trustworthiness, is dynamic, progressive, and knows her stuff. When you trust the messenger, you will believe in the message. We believe in Diane Rehm. If you are a regular listener of the DR Show, you know you can count on Diane Rehm being prepared with great knowledge and skill. Diane Rehm is genuinely excited personally and optimistic about the future of her show, her message, and our nation. Today, to be perceived as being Credible is rare; however, according to the research of James Kouzes & Barry Posner (2008), Credibility is a concept that every Leader must acknowledge.  Kouzes & Posner (2011) refer to this as The First Law of Leadership.

The First Law of Leadership: If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message.

If you don’t trust the messenger, the message is irrelevant.

Developed Leader

I loved hearing from and meeting Diane Rehm. Days after her visit I kept referring back to things she shared about her philosophy and values. At one point I felt compelled to listen to her Women in Leadership breakfast keynote again online — which I never have done before. If DR fans or more generally NPR fans are a community then Diane is our leader, and she epitomizes a Developed Leader. From her opening remarks it was clear Diane Rehm was a legitimate part of our community and she immediately connected with everyone.  Diane spoke about WBAA’s 90 anniversary and the importance of giving to public radio as if we had known each other and struggled together for a long time.  Her story of how she ended up in public radio and how she approaches producing a daily, two-hour show demonstrates congruence between her message and her values and philosophy.  Diane Rehm’s credibility is enhanced by the fact that she has chosen to be in public radio, hosting the DR Show, and being a vehicle for the rest of us to get engaged in the important conversations of our time. Consistent with Howard Gardner’s research (1995), Diane Rehm is a leader of a society — albeit a society of NPR nerds, but a community just the same.  She has chosen our cause and we have chosen her as our leader.  Howard Gardner in his text, Leading Minds, refers to this as a Developed Leader. A Developed Leader has a tie to the community and relates stories that are consistent with the values and vision of the community (Gardner, 1995).

Her Stories

The real power behind Diane Rehm and her presentation in celebration of the 90th anniversary of WBBA is her stories. There were a few themes in her remarks and in her answer to the audience’s questions.  A few of the more powerful insights, sage advice and wisdom from Diane Rehm’s remarks are as follows:

  • One of my complaints I have about my station is that communication, even important communications, are done via e-mail. I don’t think that helps for cohesiveness, for the kind of creation of a strong team effort. We all need to be together in some way, in some form, in order to help each other — sending out that message orally, verbally — ’cause that’s the way you help people.
  • During these times we have been caught up in a plethora of sources of information and focused to the next thing – the next message – the next tweet – the next message on Facebook. We are forgetting about the importance of conversation. Conversation enriches life — it is important to sit and talk and to really engage. Conversation creates meaning and depth.  Conversation is what keeps us human — is what keeps us relating with each other.  And that’s my worry that we are so focused on these gadgets and so focused on the illusory connection that these gadgets provide that we will forget how important it is to relate on a human level.
  • The most interesting dinner parties are those where people are willing to engage — where real conversations begin by asking each other questions and listening to the answers with genuine interest.
  • Media today is often designed to tell you what to think.  At the DR Show our goal is to give you enough information to engage in the interview. The DR Show will not tell you how to think but rather will all you to think for yourself. This is true for public radio in general and why we all need to support public radio and advocate for funding.  Stations like WBAA send out messages of hope, of encouragement, of good news, of good conversation around the Indiana area.  And the message is coming from a local personality that you trust and with who you are most comfortable. A person who allows you to think rather than tell you how to think or what to think.
  • Young professionals must follow their passion — especially women. When you are starting out, don’t hesitate to volunteer.  While volunteering you are learning and being trained.  This is how I, Diane Rehm, learned about public radio. People would ask me why are you volunteering without pay.  My answer was and remains — I was learning. Any opportunity to learn is a gateway to a new career.  If you love that volunteer work, want to pursue it more, and are willing to put in the time and effort to pursue it — it becomes a dream.  I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t come easy.  I carried my own equipment; I had to report to work at 3 a.m. — and these were two part-time jobs. You have to work your bottom off.  Too many young professionals have dreams but are not yet realizing how much effort they have to put into the work part – the self training part – the relationship part — in order to achieve those dreams.

As you can see, Diane Rehm’s message is consistent with the vision for her show and her role in public radio.  Diane Rehm is a leader with credibility and a talented interviewer.  Diane Rehm is excited about her work, intelligent, authentic, inspiring and forward thinking. When Diane Rehm made her entrance at the WBAA Gala Dinner and Leadership Breakfast, we all wanted to be her friend; when we left the event, we all felt comforted, filled with hope, re-energized, and ready to face the future — what ever it may bring.

Diane Rehm is our new BFF — and everything in the world is going to be fine.


  • Gardner, Howard (1995). Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. New York: Basic Books.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2011). Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2008). 4th Edition. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Rehm, Diane (2012, May 17 & 18). WBAA 90th Anniversary Keynote at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

For more suggestions on must-read LEADERSHIP books, check out this PCPop blog post:

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