Published on January 22, 2017, at 8:39 a.m.
by Fallon Chiasson, Contributing Writer.
John Deveney wears many hats. He is the founder and CEO of DEVENEY, an engagement agency based in New Orleans. He is a Plank Center 2013 Agency Mentor noted for leadership ability in mentorship. This year, Deveney took on a new hat: professor.
He is undoubtedly a leader; yet, what sets Deveney apart is his different styles of leading. Deveney’s leadership may take different forms, but all seem to point to his passion for leadership and strategic way of motivating those around him.
Brittany Cruickshank started her career at DEVENEY following graduation from college. She had a desire to teach abroad, and Deveney encouraged Cruickshank to pursue that passion — even though that meant stepping down from her agency position. Deveney welcomed Cruickshank back as an account executive upon her return to the United States.
“John has always supported my professional and personal initiatives,” Cruickshank noted when recounting her experience of leaving and returning to DEVENEY.
Cruickshank sees Deveney’s greatest leadership skill to be his genuine interest in his employees and clients. He takes great effort in getting to know everyone he meets.
“John remembers it’s your birthday. He may even make a joke based off a previous conversation,” Cruickshank explained.
Cruickshank said that Deveney’s best piece of advice is “you can do anything your heart desires.” When asked about his influence on her life, Cruickshank expressed that his mentorship “has shaped who I am today, and who I will become, as I continue to grow and flourish under his guidance.”
Nick Shapiro, a mentee of Deveney, met him while interning at DEVENEY during college. Following college, he was hired by DEVENEY and worked as an account executive for two years. Afterward, he was hired as a regional communications director for the Democratic National Committee — a decision Deveney encouraged and supported — and landed a job in the White House in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Shapiro, now the global head of crisis communication and issues management for Airbnb, stated that Deveney’s most distinctive leadership characteristic is that he “is fiercely loyal … he empowers people to know that he always has your back.” Deveney taught Shapiro that “you want to lead by running a meritocracy.”
Deveney values hard work above all else, with little merit given only to seniority. Shapiro recounted a time when Deveney entrusted him with running two large accounts, despite being a new employee, because of his strong work ethic. However, as much as Deveney appreciates hard work, he also taught Shapiro about work/life balance. His best piece of advice to Shapiro was that “work shouldn’t be your life. You need to be happy in this short life.”
I was a student in Deveney’s Strategic Content Creation class at Loyola University New Orleans in fall of 2016. Throughout the semester, Deveney eagerly gave me advice concerning internships and professionalism, and helped me find my niche in public relations. He listened more than he spoke, allowing me to talk through my plans rather than telling me what to do.
Deveney’s most pronounced leadership characteristic in the classroom was his adaptability. From improvising when the projectors were not working to speaking on current events and DEVENEY activities, Deveney had the ability to think on his feet effectively and effortlessly.
Deveney not only taught me about the value of research, media relations and crisis management; he also taught me to lead by example. Being the head of a company, one might be inclined to take a back seat in the work effort only to take the glory at the end. However, Deveney noted his direct experiences with clients — from researching to making engagement briefs to scheduling media tours. This characteristic has shown me that no matter how much you know or how much control you may have, humbling one’s self and doing the work are the best ways to gain respect and credibility.
It goes without saying that Deveney is skilled at his craft. He can create a campaign for health care with as much creativity and enthusiasm as he can for tourism. He is authentic in the office and in the classroom. Yet, Deveney is more than a strategic communicator.
Arguably his most admirable trait is his selflessness and desire for others to reach their full potential, which is depicted by his willingness to encourage his employees to pursue all of their endeavors, even if that means leaving his office. Whether in the office, over coffee with a mentee or in the classroom, Deveney manages to show his leadership traits in the humblest of ways — just as a leader should.