How to Be A Better Leader, No Matter Your Professional Position

It doesn’t matter if you have “manager,” “director” or “executive” in your job title, you’re still responsible to be a good leader.

 

I learned my first lesson in leadership, beginning my career as a TV news reporter. It took a few years and a few simple words to reach my breakthrough.

I was what they in the news business call an MMJ – Multimedia Journalist. MMJs are responsible for: finding and pitching timely stories, securing and shooting interviews and background video, writing scripts, editing video and sometimes running the technical aspects of their live shots while also being on camera.  This was a job that made me extremely self-reliant and efficient, especially starting out with few resources making little money. It was stressful and exhausting.

Then, I got my break.

I was hired for my dream job at the time – a weekend morning anchor in a top 100 market, and I felt I had earned that position 10 times over. But when I started, my news director told me something that did not click right away. He said, “Your job as an anchor is to make everyone else look better.” I immediately thought, “Everyone else? What about me? This was my show. I should talk the most. I should be on camera the most. I should have control of the show. I’ve worked tirelessly on my stories and on-air reporting, pulling overtime and not complaining- I’ve earned this!”

What my boss at the time was asking me to do was be a leader. I was supposed to be the conductor, not the whole orchestra.

What I should have done from the jump was allow my colleagues, on and off-air, to shine and grow together. I should have been a guide and used my experience to help them reach their full potential.

Instead, what I did was talk … too much. I talked over people on air. I talked tossing into the weather segment without giving the meteorologist a chance to respond or join the one-sided conversation, limiting the time for his forecast. I questioned every story the producer added to the rundown, critiqued her writing and badgered her about which websites and sources she should have been checking – until I just started regularly checking them myself.

What I wanted was for this show to be one that made us proud. What I did was become a micromanager who wasn’t allowing anyone to learn from their mistakes, find their rhythm and become a cohesive unit. My team was becoming frustrated with me. Eventually, after getting frustrated from exhaustion, I realized:

  1. I couldn’t do all the work myself.
  2. I couldn’t make every member of my team do things exactly the way I wanted. Everyone needed to apply their own creativity and experience to their job.

 

Once I adjusted my behavior, my newscasts and professional relationships started to change for the better. And in my opinion, our newscasts were better than ever.  

Leadership does not mean a pyramid with staff at the bottom and you at the top. Leadership is a state of mind. It is about focusing on the team outcome, not just your outcome. As Intel’s chief of staff of U.S. Sales and Marketing Group, Sara Stiles said during her keynote at the 2019 Women of the Channel Leadership Summit East, “Leadership is a team sport.” She went on to say to be a great leader means to encourage those around you and give them the right tools to step out of their comfort zones and push themselves to be great.

One statement that sticks with me until this day is how a former coworker responded to my sentiments of gratitude for his help. He said, “When you win, we all win.” Think about that. If we each lived by that mantra and spread that mentality to our coworkers, we would all be an unstoppable force, raising each other up to succeed as a team.

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