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The Midweek Motivator – Radio’s Leaders Leading Leaders

In a recent conversation with a regional manager one question jumped out: “how can we cut the bonds of company tradition in order to outpace our competitors?” 

In a time like this, in an industry like ours, easy answers and simple clichés have no place in organizational growth. Among the best companies, exactly what gives employees the freedom to think and act quickly and creatively? And, how do we define leadership in 2021? I attempted to answer that very question during a spirited group conference call this past week.

“Leadership is a dynamic relationship based on a mutual goal and common purpose between leaders and their team members who are hopefully moving to higher levels of motivation and moral development with one goal: to affect real and lasting change”. That’s a very long mission statement but it does describe what we’ve witnessed taking place within the best broadcast ownerships, past and present. “Best” is not defined by size, but by culture and outcomes.

In many industries it’s easy to point to the iconic founders of companies like Apple, Tesla, Amazon, Nike or IBM, but it’s equally valuable to our industry to appreciate and learn from companies such as Saga, Bonneville, Hubbard, Salem, or Midwest Communications as examples. Looking at exceptional industry cultures, there is one overarching commonality: leaders and workers enjoy relationships where roles between leader and collaborator seem interchangeable.

And, outside the boundaries of the Media industry exemplary companies such as Marriot or Southwest Airlines are the essence of top-down vision and the principle of “commitment” as opposed to “compliance.” Over time, offering programming resources to companies of all shapes and sizes, we’ve come away with a simple definition of superior leadership and its culture: “When leadership understands that only when your people want to do what you’ve asked them to do and the interests of leaders and collaborators overlap, do we gain a long-term, sustaining commitment!

It’s not enough to have “compliant” staff members (because many simply put in their effort and time), thus very difficult for them to travel beyond nine-to-five boundaries, perhaps because they have less emotional or spiritual connection to what their job truly represents.

The Covid epic will be a topic for decades among organizational psychologists and millions of us who’ve lived through the era. If you’re looking for a way to kick-start a more dynamic climate within your company’s leadership, include two key principles. First, “leadership” doesn’t belong to one person (even if their name is Sheryl Sandberg, Tim Cook, or Bill Gates).  Second, “Leadership” is not defined by a position of power or authority. In our yearning for a simple definition for “heroes” and our desire to fully understand the essence of leaders, we tend to isolate a single individual while minimizing our organization, top-down.

Norman Schwarzkoph didn’t single-handedly win the Gulf War, Jack Welch didn’t transform General Electric alone, nor did the Mays Family create Clear Channel over a backyard barbeque. Instead, “leadership” is based on mutual collaboration where the best leaders are shaped, then reshaped, by those who paint outside the borders.