Being a leader today is not for faint of heart. Gone are the good old days of simply planning your work for your business and then working your plan. Today, leaders need to solve problems and think creatively. They need to, as Wayne Gretsky so eloquently put it “skate to where the (business) puck is going to be, not where it is.”
Leadership today is all about inspiring people and empowering them to believe in themselves, their company and the path that lies ahead.
Whether that business is a radio station or a university (where I now work), the task is the same.
Lesson #1: Don’t run your business poorly
Leaders lead by example. People will follow more what you do than what you say. If you misuse your expense account or run your personal mail through the office mail machine, others will follow your example regardless of what the “official policy” is on personal use of the mail machine or what qualifies as a legitimate business expense.
In a radio station, sales people aren’t programmers and program people don’t sell. So sales people don’t have a say in programming decisions and programming people don’t set advertising rates.
Leadership means getting the people who are skilled at what they do to “Just do IT” not somebody else’s “it.”
I worked for a radio station owner who had a favorite phrase, “Money makes honey.” He knew that you needed to have money coming in the door to pay for everything his radio stations did and so he took the sales aspect of running radio stations VERY seriously.
Walt Disney put it this way “I don’t make movies to make money; I make money to make movies.”
Lesson #2: A Unified Vision is Key
I used the words “unified vision” for a reason. Most folks would have said “mission statement.” I am not a fan of mission statements for a couple of reasons. They are often crafted by committees. Like the old joke about what’s a camel, it’s a horse created by a committee. So most mission statements are too unwieldy and no one can remember them much less carry them in their heart as a guiding star.
Leaders like Steve Jobs create a vision for their company. Steve’s was to create “insanely great products.” He didn’t say make the world’s best computer, iPod, tablet or iPhone. He just said whatever Apple is committed to making, it would be insanely great.
Lesson #3: Your Product is Job One
In higher education, the product is the quality of your teachers, facility and the success of your graduates. In radio, it’s the quality of your air personalities, content, facility and the success of your property to serve the community, advertisers and listeners.
American broadcasting executive, Randy Michaels, once said at a conference I attended “you give me a poorly programmed radio station with a great sales force and I’ll lose you money, but if you give me an excellent programmed radio station with a mediocre sales force, I’ll make you money.” Randy was always clear that the way to make money in radio was making the radio product job one. (Sounds like Walt Disney, doesn’t it)
Look at any successful company and you will see that the product comes first; always.
The challenge in a digital world is that things are changing more quickly than at any time in history. Innovation isn’t a luxury; it has to be an integral part of your business plan. The only constant is change.
The trick for both radio and higher education is to innovate without tinkering with the core product in the process. You also don’t fear cannibalizing your core product either.
Again, Jobs didn’t tinker with his iPod while developing his iPhone, but never worried that his iPhone and later his tablet would cannibalize his iPod and MAC in the future. (Note: the era of the iPod ended in 2014 with the introduction of the iPhone6. Over 400 million iPods have been sold.)
But when you have instilled in your people a unified vision like to make insanely great products, you have sowed the seeds of success into the very fabric of your organization.