“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton
Mel Cooper is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I was doing some work for one of his stations in the Vancouver, BC area, and flew up to meet him. When he took me on a tour of the station he introduced me to everyone around, and had something good to say about each individual. He passed along compliments, and gave credit to most of them. Not only that, but he is just plain fun to be around. When we finally got around to talking business, he quickly painted a vision of what he was looking for in a new station he hoped to launch.
Mel understood one of the unspoken laws of leadership: If you’re a leader, people follow you because they want to, not because they have to.
People throw the word “leader” around like it’s a title that comes with a certain job. Every CEO or GM isn’t a leader. It’s the ones that care about their people instead of looking at them as assets for improving shareholder value that are the true leaders. The ones with a vision for the future and an understanding that being a leader is something you earn, not something you’re given.
I’m fortunate enough to have known several true leaders in my career. Every one of them was someone I wanted to be around, and would have walked through fire for. Every one of them inspired their people to do more than the others. Every one of them was like a graduate degree for me. Oddly enough, every one of them was different in style, unique to themselves.
Another unspoken secret of leadership is that you don’t have to have a title to be a leader. There are often people at a station who don’t have a grand title, but are the ones people go to for advice, or gravitate to naturally. They’re often as important to the success of an organization as the CEO.
I talk a lot about leadership because I believe it to be one of the key factors for success in the future. It doesn’t matter how many stations you have or what kind of return you bring, it’s not going to help when media fragments more and more. Leadership, however, especially visionary leadership, will.
Sam Walton has it right. Mel Cooper has it right. If you make the people around you believe they can do anything, and accomplish great things, they will. I’ve never understood why more people who want to lead don’t understand that. It’s free, and you just have to practice, practice, practice. Start recognizing the contributions of those around you, and let them know you recognize it. Just start with telling one person a day what their value is to your organization. Soon you’ll be doing it naturally…and you’re down the road to becoming a leader.