10 leadership lessons learned from NewsU’s last 10 years

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Friday, April 10 is the 10th anniversary of Poynter's News University. In addition to other celebrations going on around Poynter, we've pulled together a series of lists from NewsU's work and hosts from the past 10 years.

The producers at Poynter's News University get to scout for talent and observe everything from the innovative ideas that percolate from the brains of talented people to industry changing norms. We interact with the journalism “celebrities” so we can tap into their genius to formulate, condense and disseminate teaching that can be bottled into one hour Webinars held almost every week.

Here are some of the lessons that we have learned here from our visitor instructors.

1. Listen and coach:

The best insights into people come when you listen carefully to what they have to say. Listening allows you to understand the passion, excitement, concerns, fears and doubts of others. Sometimes people have a great idea but you can be the coach who helps them articulate their ideas and guide them through to fame and fortune just because you listened.

2. Experiment and take risks:

Many presenters who were entrepreneurs and “big ideas” industry leaders had one thing in common. They broke the rules and took risks. They experimented and failed and learned. They came up with thought processes and new workflows and new tools to keep up with the changing world of journalism. They also had the wisdom to learn from their mistakes and in turn taught others to avoid the pitfalls.

3. Expand your knowledge:

Reading and learning are the fuels to keep good journalism happening. If you want to lead by example then you have to be knowledgeable about thoughts and ideas. Reading and writing to keep your creative juices flowing is one of the key ingredients to be a great journalist.

4. Be open to ideas and think positive:

If you experiment and come up with ideas, then you know the importance of getting buy in from your peers. Extend the same courtesy to ideas of other people. Even if the ideas contradict the norm, or seem outlandish, there may be some aspect that can be nurtured and applied to a project. Ideas follow the theory of evolution, too. The fittest one will survive. It just needs a chance.

5. Encourage conversations and clarify your goals:

Clarity is key. Not only is it a great course title for better writing, it is applicable to all aspects of leadership. People have a constant need to have a sense of direction. Great ideas can die on the vine if they are not communicated well. Ask questions, make sure people understand the direction that they are headed. Change can be a scary thing, but not if you can see your way through it.

6. Everyone needs a team:

Just like everyone needs an editor, we all need to interact and work together to create and discover. The thought leaders who have been through here at NewsU are great team players. They appreciate and applaud the hard work of others and their own.

7. Be respectful of time:

We thrive on deadlines. In fact most of our creativity peaks when the deadline is looming. The best Webinar presenters have taught us that you always give time to test and retest, write and rewrite, think and rethink. This not only makes their work great, it reflects on your own work because an overnight test makes any idea better.

8. Speak your mind, but do it gently:

One of the best lessons I have learned is to be myself and interact with others in a frank, open and genuine manner. Sincerity is a very respected trait and people appreciate the genuine desire to be part of the team.

9. Lead, don’t just manage:

Great leaders have followers. They shape the minds and hearts of people. They inspire and guide. They take risks and give credit. They constantly learn from people and incidents in their lives. They allow you to seek your own wisdom and catch you if you fall.

10. The wisdom is in the room:

This is perhaps the greatest lesson of all. It also works well in the social media, mobile and millennial-ruled world that we currently live in. There are always people who know about certain things better and in more depth than you do. That is why you brainstorm and open the room to let the ideas percolate and bubble. You provide opportunities and environment to nurture the ideas as a great coach or teacher. You tap into the wisdom of the room, recognize the talent, and learn a lesson in humility as well if you are a great leader.

Related: NewsU was funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Coming up, there are two ways you can join the NewsU birthday celebration. Share a story about how NewsU e-learning has transformed your journalism, and come to NewsU's birthday Webinar on April 10, featuring some of the best lessons, tips, tricks, hacks and bits of knowledge from 10 years of e-learning.

  • Profile picture for user Vidisha Priyanka

    Vidisha Priyanka

    Vidisha Priyanka is currently working with Poynter NewsU as the Interactive Learning Manager. She teaches multimedia, video and interactive storytelling, analytics and user engagement to professional journalists, onsite and online.

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