How do leaders lead through tough times? Let’s get outside our own newsrooms and find out.
This series on managing change in the newsroom was supported by Democracy Fund, which is co-publishing the articles. Subscribe to Democracy Fund’s Local Fix newsletter for more of the best writing, ideas, and tips for those working in local news in your inbox every Friday.
It’s not exactly breaking news to say that the media landscape is changing – rapidly and relentlessly.
More than ever, the challenge for people in leadership positions is to recognize that landscape, embrace it, and foster a culture in which the prospect of ongoing change is inspiring, not intimidating. Leaders must set the tone, built on sound strategy, disciplined focus and skillful guidance.
So how do leaders lead, especially during these demanding times?
We all know that the worst answer to any question is: We’ve always done it that way. We also know that little can be more deadening – intellectually and spiritually – than leaders who think they are the smartest people in the room. And although establishing a sense of urgency is critical, it’s important to differentiate between managing by plan, and managing by panic.
One of the most successful ways for leaders to create the right culture is to learn from other leaders’ experiences. Just as the best journalists have the most curiosity, the best leaders are always curious and learning. What am I missing? Who else can I talk with and what else can I read to learn more? How do I know enough to deeply understand and explain the context of my journalism? How do I better connect with my audience – both in the newsroom and outside?
Of course, there are times when a leader charts the course of the enterprise through explicit direction. But an executive does that at great risk if the directive is not preceded by listening to, understanding and learning from others inside the organization.
It is also necessary to listen and learn from those outside the organization. There are issues you can’t discuss inside your organization. You might need confidentiality. It is a gift to have experienced, impartial outside voices for counsel.
So let’s go outside your news organization to find some helpful advice – or at least give you some leadership, culture and change issues to think about as you make decisions.
I have asked some experienced news leaders to think about the challenges today’s leaders face in their news organizations and give some guidance by answering some questions from me. Whether your news organization is small or large, a start-up or more than 100 years old, the issues are often the same.