Let me ask you a question: If you were crafting a list of behavior patterns that you think good leaders need to be successful, what would be included?
I had the opportunity to collect such a list during a workshop on leadership at the Asian American Journalists Association convention in San Diego. The thoughts and ideas came from about 30 or so really bright, dedicated, ambitious journalists in print and broadcast.
Here are some of the qualities they believe are needed to make you a leader others will follow:
- Always tell the truth. Create a foundation of fairness and openness.
- Communicate constantly and exhibit strong and active listening skills. Be approachable.
- Be frank, but kind. Let everyone know what is expected and be demanding as far as standards and values are concerned. Be encouraging.
- Be a problem solver and part of the solution, and be willing to delegate.
- Show patience, discipline and determination.
- Love what you do and have a generous spirit.
- Find balance in your work/life experiences and encourage and help others to do the same.
- Lead by example. Be receptive to new ideas. Be both a teacher and a learner. Value creativity and let people stretch themselves.
- Exercise moral courage.
- Create an ongoing reward and recognition program.
- Have a heart and don’t be afraid to show it.
There were more, including a couple that raised considerable conversation. One person suggested that you needed to be politically wise to truly maneuver your way through a newsroom; that if you weren’t, you would essentially be eaten alive.
I understand the politics of a newsroom all too well. But I also know that, as a leader, you can discourage it or encourage it. You can operate with what has become known as creative tension or you can let it be known that playing politics will get you absolutely nowhere. I did my best to practice the latter.
Another point of contention came when a mid-level manager questioned whether you had to work longer and harder than everyone else to get ahead. And, he added, do people who work for you feel they have to work as long and hard as you do to keep from falling out of favor?
He works long hours and many of the people around him stay because he does.
As I told him, I may be the wrong person to talk about this dilemma. As I have confessed before, I failed the course on work/life balance, putting in too many hours at the office. And I know that put pressure on those who reported to me to do the same.
After all these years, I do know that in the daily news business there always will be more stories, always a chance to do it better the next day, always an opportunity to correct mistakes.
But there isn’t always the chance for a do-over for those precious moments of family life. This was brought home so vividly to me recently when my wife and I were able to return to what is our permanent home in California from my workplace in Florida for both our 42nd wedding anniversary and our granddaughter’s first day in kindergarten, two joyful occasions.
I also know that there were too many times during my 46 years in the daily news business that I would have found a work reason to miss those fun-filled milestone events. And that is a not-so-nice commentary on my own personal choices. But maybe there is something to that adage that says the older you get the wiser you get.
You have to decide what mix of work and play is best for you. But as a leader you should judge the results of what people do and not how many hours they stay at the office.
So that’s one list of leadership behavior patterns. You can add and subtract to those offered, but if you are a leader, or aspire to be one, you should make your own list.
And do your best to follow it and be faithful to it.