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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Demand For Radio Leadership Now

Got this email from a friend in the South... it's a pretty awesome email. I mean if this doesn't speak to you...

Leaders challenge the status quo and take risks. Leaders burn the bridges behind them and make an all-out commitment to change. Leaders frequently engage their troops, present grand visions, and are willing to break every rule if it means potential success in the future...

I don't know what will.

It's as if this guy Eric Rhoads got into my head and started transcribing some of my thoughts...

Now I will say that I don't agree with all. On some we could have a pretty interesting and stimulating discussion. But overall, when it comes to leadership, I have to say I'm pretty much in agreement...

I'm sharing because every so often, in 'interesting times' there comes a time when leaders truly do rise.

Raise up. Twist it like a helicopter. History is calling...

... do you hear it? It's that feeling in your soul... stirring... if you know what I mean... listen and answer the call...

One love. More later...


From: Eric Rhoads
Sent: Friday, August 07, 2009 4:54 PM
Subject: A Demand For Radio Leadership Now

A Demand For Radio Leadership Now
A passionate message from Eric Rhoads, Radio Ink magazine

"Abraham Lincoln did not go to Gettysburg having commissioned a poll to find out what would sell in Gettysburg. There were no people with percentages for him, cautioning him about this group or that group or what they found in exit polls a year earlier. When will we have the courage of Lincoln?"
-- Robert Coles

Where Are Radio's Leaders?

The answer lies in this quote from my friend Roy Williams:

"Leadership and management, in my experience, are virtually opposite skill sets. Management requires wisdom, patience and strength. Basically, it's parenting, bringing forward the best of the past, enforcing the status quo. Leadership requires independence, audacity, and courage. It's inherently defiant, questioning the past, challenging the status quo. True leaders require no authority. They think their own thoughts, make their own decisions, carry out their own plans. They say, 'This is what I've decided to do.' And then they do it. Others see them doing it and decide to follow. Leaders lead from the front. Managers manage from behind."

Radio has mistaken management for leadership. We have bred an industry of great managers, but how many risk-takers, how many rebels, how many people willing to challenge the status quo?

Where are the dashing swashbucklers with swords drawn, engaged in a spirited fight to conquer new lands for radio?

Radio used to be filled with rebels. Where are they now?

How many people feel secure even suggesting something new or different, let alone taking bold action at their radio station or company?

Every ship needs a captain. Who is determining radio's strategy? Who is leading radio into uncharted territory? Who is boldly speaking out to engage the troops? Though some individual companies have bold, risk-taking captains, there appears to be a void in radio as an industry. We are being led by a committee of managers.

I just re-read Sun Tsu's Art of War. He states that the most critical component of wining a war is having soldiers who believe so strongly in a cause they are willing to lay their lives on the line and follow their leader into battle. A defeated brigade must avoid battle at all costs until they can be rested, fed, and re-energized.

Dying for radio is probably not in the cards for any of us, but we have committed our entire careers to this medium. Many of our troops are tired, in need of nourishment and encouragement. Many have been spent, worn to the bone, abused, paperworked, systemized, and made to operate under battle conditions for months or years at a time. How can radio make strides with worn soldiers?

Sadly, words I hear all too frequently are, "When will it be fun again?" And, of course, some self-assured company leader will respond with, "We're not here to have fun, we're here to make a profit."

Indeed.

But if you believe in Raymond Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, you'll understand that radio soldiers who feel they have a bigger purpose and who feel great joy and satisfaction in their work are more likely to make a profit.

Leaders don't make decisions by committee. Leaders don't fire people who disagree. Leaders don't threaten careers if paperwork isn't done. Leaders don't await marching orders from their boards. Leaders don't fly their jets across the country for a five-minute meeting to fire someone and then argue over severance that's a fraction of the cost of the flight. Leaders don't look to find everything that is wrong with radio.

Leaders challenge the status quo and take risks. Leaders burn the bridges behind them and make an all-out commitment to change. Leaders frequently engage their troops, present grand visions, and are willing to break every rule if it means potential success in the future.

These are challenging days for radio. The outcome of decisions we face today on Capitol Hill, in the advertising community, and on many other fronts will determine whether this industry thrives or stumbles.

Are you a leader or a manager? We need both, but we need leaders at every radio station in America willing to lead and spit in the eye of conformity. We need leaders willing to risk their jobs and willing to stand up to those who manage them, and we don't need those who wimp out and kiss up.

We need leaders in programming willing to stop the homogenization and formulaic approach to radio. Sure, it works, but I don't see Americans having a love affair with radio. You can change that. You can make them want to tune in to hear what they've missed. You can entertain and engage them. This is the mark of good programmer, not someone who is a sheep following 30 years of tired and worn science.

We need a true leader at the NAB. We cannot get behind non-industry managers who read speeches written by some novice speechwriter who has never worked in broadcasting and invents lame slogans like "We're the greatest industry in the world" for a leader who never set foot in a radio station before getting the job. The NAB executive board needs to exhibit leadership and have the guts to hire a true leader.

NAB needs a courageous rebel willing to challenge everything, not a good soldier implementing orders. We need a leader who has spent time behind a microphone, who has attended countless radio promotions, and who has had to make a payroll and has had to call on advertisers. We need someone willing to fight to the death for free speech. Yes we need a lobbyist, too, but we can hire a great lobbyist to follow a great leader.

Everyone, it seems, is lukewarm.

Where is the passion?

Where is the emotion?

Where is the excitement?

Where is the communication?

Where is the guiding star?

I'm tired of calling for change and seeing the status quo maintained. I'm tired of launching conferences with dozens of innovative and groundbreaking speakers and seeing only a few hundred forward-thinking people show up instead of those who need it most. I'm tired of harping about the need to return to important localism, community, and entertainment values and hearing hundreds of radio stations using the same formats, the same liners, the same voices. I'm not living in the past, but I'm tired of CEOs who say, "Eric, those days are gone. You need to face the reality that radio can no longer be about entertainment."

That's like saying the movies can no longer be about entertainment.

Yet I am invigorated when I drive into a small town and hear a young, squeaky-voiced talent learning and growing live on the air. It gives me hope, it's authentic, and in my mind it's more listenable than some slick, golden-throated pro talking about "10 in a row" or "The greatest hits." That may be pretty, but it no longer stands out.


Radio needs a leader willing to stand up against all odds and make change happen. Who is Mrs. or Mr. Radio? We need to find you. We need to hire you. Our future depends on it.

Eric Rhoads
Publisher, Radio Ink