Letter from the executive editor: What does pubmedia need from its leaders?

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In recent months, Current has been compelled to report on serious workplace climate crises, including complaints of verbal abuse, negligent management and other professional misconduct. It’s disturbing to learn that so many people — usually those starting careers in public media — have been treated with such disrespect and disregard.

It hurts to hear these stories because I consider public media a place where integrity runs deep. We can and must do better.

We can start with some introspection. What kind of leadership does public media need to demonstrate the fundamental values of our mission? How are our leaders modeling best practices and mentoring the generation that will soon succeed them? What kind of leadership training is required to help public media organizations thrive? Where will that training come from?

Current asked some top public media managers to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts about how to be an effective leader as digital disruption accelerates and the urgency to diversify our institutions intensifies. We fielded an email survey to station executives to learn about the challenges they face and what they think public media needs from its national leadership. We’ll be sharing the results of that survey in the coming weeks.

From my perspective, good leadership is eliciting the best in those around you: inspiring and supporting employees’ ambitions, rewarding achievements, encouraging risk-taking, providing staffers with opportunities, guidance, support and freedom necessary to deliver excellent work that moves an organization and its people forward.

Effective leadership emerges at the intersection of vision and humanism. By seeing and believing in the potential that others may not see in themselves, you help them to realize their own capabilities.

I have had some amazing bosses over the years — and, of course, some not-so-amazing bosses. And I have learned a great deal from both. The best of the bunch had infectious enthusiasm and drive. They recognized the importance of teamwork and individual accountability. They were humble, appreciative, acknowledged their own mistakes and were able to laugh at themselves while lifting others up.

That’s the kind of leader I strive to be.

I care deeply about hard work and success, but relationships matter most to me as a manager: my relationships with staff, their relationships with one another, Current’s relationships with American University, our public media partners, subscribers, funders and you, our readers.

Everything I’ve learned about leadership, I’ve learned on the job — from my mentors and co-workers, my own mistakes and many failures. I don’t have an M.B.A, but I do have a master’s degree in mensch. Honesty is the best policy, and the Golden Rule reigns supreme. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be the one to clean out the office fridge.

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