'Lead yourself first': 5 lessons (and a lot of questions) for leaders

The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe's Laura Amico. (Photo by Katie Hawkins-Gaar/Poynter)

As a young reporter, Laura Amico didn't know that talking about what you do and why you do it is just as important as actually doing it. At the ONA/Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media on Tuesday, Amico spoke about her career turns, from reporting to launching Homicide Watch D.C. to joining the Boston Globe as an editor. Here are five leadership lessons from her session, "Entrepreneurship from Within or Without."

1. Lead yourself first

Fusion's Mariana Santos takes notes during a brainstorming session following Amico's talk. (Photo by Kristen Hare/Poynter)

"Leading yourself means knowing what you need, knowing if you're getting it and knowing what you're going to do if you're not getting it," Amico said.

Here are the questions she thinks about:
-Where do I find focus?
-How am I defining success today, this week, this month?
-Who am I looking to for leadership?
-What qualities do I admire in a leader?
-Who do I trust?
-What do I do when things seem impossible?
-How am I building my network?

2. Create process and transparency

A Plus
A Plus' Mandy Velez. (Photo by Kristen Hare/Poynter)

Doing the work is important, Amico said, "but being able to talk about what you're doing and why and communicating that so people understand why you're making decisions, why you're taking certain actions, why you're choosing one story over another, helps make things more explicit."

Her questions:

-How do I set the agenda?
-Who else is setting the agenda?
-What are the implicit goals in my organization?
-What are the explicit goals?
-How do I lead with change?
-How do I lead in change?

3. Stay ahead of the game

Poynter's Kelly McBride. (Photo by Kristen Hare/Poynter)

At Homicide Watch DC, there was a database with homicides, victims and suspects, Amico said, and because of that, when "something popped up, we knew had to be there."

As a manager at the Globe, she's tried to learn how to do that with her team.

Her questions?

-How do I understand where we're going before we're there?
-What's the opportunity for the day?
-What's the opportunity of the week/month/year?
-How do you generate new ideas while keeping up with your daily work?

4. Understand how other people work

From left to right, CNN
From left to right, CNN's Melisa Goh, NBC News' Imaeyen Ibanga, Cox Media Group's Kari Cobham and Rivet News Radio's Geneen Harston. (Photo by Kristen Hare/Poynter)

Amico's questions:

-What are the cues that they're giving me?
-How do I manage a team's expectations?
-How do I have difficult conversations?

5. Know your audience

WhereBy.Us' Rebekah Monson. (Photo by Kristen Hare/Poynter)

Amico's questions:

-What influence do I want to have?
-What qualities do I want in staff?
-With staff I've inherited, how do I foster those qualities?
-Where and how do I hire?

From her experience, Amico said, “it’s easier to lead others when you know where you’re going yourself.”


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