Radio Leaders Discuss How They Became Great Leaders


The radio industry’s top leaders do not just fall into their positions of leadership. They work harder, they work smarter, and they find ways to put themselves into positions to advance their careers. We turned to four of radio’s top leaders and asked them exactly how they do it. Why are they the ones leading people? What did they do to educate themselves? Here’s what they had to say.

Steve Jones

ABC Radio Vice President and General Manager Steve Jones: Several years ago, I was a Sulzberger Fellow at Columbia University’s Journalism School. The Sulzberger program is run by former McKinsey consultants who coached me on innovation strategy and change management using actual challenges I was confronting in the radio business. Last year, I participated in a program that brought together senior executives across the company to sharpen our leadership skills and improve our creative processes. Programs like these exposed me to world-class thinkers in an environment where I could disconnect from work and focus on the learning that was offered. On a daily basis, I read our industry’s trades and the general business press and talk to our affiliates. It helps that I am surrounded at ABC Radio by a smart team of deeply informed and collaborative people who share interesting information so that all of us get smarter.

Emmis Communications President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Walsh: I was very fortunate at a young age to have some transformative leadership experiences. I always look back on my time as captain of my high school football team and president of my college fraternity as opportunities to lead about 80 men on a journey where everyone had great passion but very different ideas about the right ways to achieve success. This diversity of opinion was the foundation of growth and great ideas, but also the source of potential dissension and chaos. As a leader, then and now, investing the time to listen to your colleagues and adapt your approach based on input is crucial.

It’s also very important that no matter what happens, as a leader you are ultimately responsible — you take all blame, and if you are wise, you share all success. Through my career, I’ve worked with a number of great mentors and leaders that all were willing to share their own personal styles with me in order to help shape my approach to leadership. I did take time after six years of work experience early in my career to get an MBA from Harvard Business School. The HBS experience was transformative in so many ways and was chock full of lots of schooling on the finer points in leadership.

However, the network of leaders I spent two years listening to and the classmates I spent two years learning from provided the real learning lab. Fellow students, especially ex-military officers in the program who had really experienced what it means to lead, were amazing resources to test my own views on what it takes to be a trusted leader of men and women.

Jose Villafane

Entravision’s National Sales President Jose Villafane: I read a lot of CEO biographies and keep up with trades and trends. The most important part of my education is what I have learned in my 20 years of on-the-job experience. Just this March, I celebrated two decades in broadcast media sales, 12 of which were spent in management.

In the different companies I have worked at, I was promoted because I delivered the numbers, even though sometimes I really did not have the experience. But I always accepted the challenge and learned on the job as quickly as I could. This allowed me to developed new ways to create efficiency and new models to grow sales.

Big River Broadcasting General Manager Nick Martin: I have tried to constantly learn from the best in the business. Pick an area or department — management, sales,

Nick Martin

programming, digital, engineering, legal/financial, etc. There are challenges and opportunities to learn and grow each day. When I graduated college and entered the workforce, I may have thought my learning days were over, but in the immortal words of a great song, “We’ve only just begun!”

Our industry is in a constant state of change. There’s a reason other professions require continuing education, i.e. doctors, accountants, etc. I think that is an excellent model and try to provide some sort of educational opportunities for all of our employees and departments each year.


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