Posted by Robbyn Brooks
Businesses need leaders, not just managers
It’s easy to think of people who were considered great leaders for one reason or another. John F. Kennedy united a generation, Ghandi taught compassion, Rosa Parks held her ground during the Civil Rights Movement. They are all remembered for different things, but all three shared something in common – vision.
Vision is what separates leaders from managers. That’s not to say that one person can’t be both. However, the functions of leaders and managers is vastly different at the core when it comes to their goals and jobs within an organization.
Warren Bennis shared his thoughts on what differentiates leaders and managers in his book On Becoming a Leader. Bennis said that a leader’s purpose is innovation while a manager is an administrator. It’s the leaders job to push a company forward with new ideas, strategies and tactics. It’s also a leader’s job to always be looking ahead at ways for companies to implement new technologies. Bennis also wrote that leaders inspire people and a manager’s responsibility is to maintain control over certain areas of the company. The third idea Bennis brings forward is that leaders ask “what” and “why,” while managers focus on “how” and when.”
Larger organizations have the luxury of hiring both managers and leaders. Leaders are the “think tank” of the group while managers are paid to make sure a leader’s plan is followed through. One personal example of an organization I’ve worked with that maximized use of both leaders and managers is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I know everyone has mixed feelings on the group, and I ask you as a strategic communicator to put those biases aside and focus on what has been wildly successful for a company that is located on several continents and boasts two million members.
The clear leader of PETA is Ingrid Newkirk, who is also the co-founder of the organization. She is engaging and inspiring, both charismatic traits of successful leaders. But beyond that, she’s build the organization on the thought that people can be trusted with delegated ideas. Newkirk is a large part of the “think tank” for PETA. She is hands on and hosts a companywide morning meeting with all offices via an Internet roundtable. Newkirk sparks thoughts and ideas about new campaigns and then trusts managers in different divisions – such as Laboratory Investigations, Communications and Campaigns – to bring back plans to implement those ideas. It’s a well-oilded machine that is impressive, no matter what your view on the company’s policy is.
On the opposite end of the manager/leader spectrum are small companies that can’t afford to employ both managers and leaders. Traits of both are required for positions of management, and if that fails to happen, companies can also fail. According to a management-leadership article by the Wall Street Journal, “…in the new economy…management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define them for a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”
Since this is a communications blog, let’s focus on the declining newspaper industry. I’ve been in the newspaper field for about seven years out of my 12 years in the communications field and it saddens me, just as it does many other print journalists, to recognize that if the industry doesn’t shift it will die. When I went to work for a daily newspaper in Florida in 2005, there were more than three hundred employees there. When I left that paper in 2009, there were less than about 50. The Chicago Sun-Times let go its entire photography staff recently with the thought that reporters could provide photos and video themselves. Let’s leave out the idea that the documentation of emotion will likely suffer and just focus on the shift to the idea of “one-man-bands.” Television stations shifted to that idea years ago, which just shows that newspapers are still catching up when it comes to innovative ideas.
To be in the newspaper industry these days, and be successful, and have the company remain successful, employees have to wear multiple hats. That especially goes for people in management positions. Managers at small community newspapers are tasked with writing, editing, planning the daily product, taking photos, editing photos, laying out pages, public relations and customer service, but above all, managers must focus on vision and leadership. In the middle of all the managerial work to be done, if editors don’t also understand the importance of propelling a news organization forward with technology and communication, messages can be lost and products become irrelevant.
In 2006, Time Magazine asked if newspapers had a future and The Economist predicted print media would dissolve by 2043, posing thoughts as to who was responsible for the industry’s decline. While those answers may not have been clear seven years ago, I have very strong feelings on the issue today. Will newspapers survive? Yes. But not without re-invention. Will they be printed on newsprint and delivered on front door steps by 2043? Probably not unless a company finds a way to market nostalgia. Who is killing newspapers? Managers who lack vision.
Newspaper managers and editors must move forward to communicate with readers where communication is happening. Right now, conversations are being had via Twitter and Facebook. Some years ago it was MySpace. Even before that, information was passed along via email links and forwards. Figuring out a way to keep a news product relavant by becoming a multi-media agency versus a traditional newspaper is key to the industry’s reinvention and survival.
In small communities where I live, it’s a struggle to maintain a balance still because the county is rural and many subscribers to the print product don’t have access to the Internet. Some community members read about our online poll in the print edition and call the office to ask if we can enter a vote for them (which we do). Moving forward without leaving paying subscribers behind is an issue we face daily.
However, metro areas such as Washington, D.C., are succeeding in seeing newspapers become a digital 24-hour news source. That’s thanks, at least in part, to the vision of leaders at metro papers.
I’d love to hear how you all get your news? Do you find some nostalgia in picking up a printed newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee, or do you prefer the convenience of reading news on a tablet or smartphone?