Leaders Lead from the Front


(By Mike McVay) The title of this article, “Leaders Lead from the Front”, is attributed to several brilliant military leaders having said it. What it means is that you’re where the battle is taking place, or in the case of business, where business begins. In our industry, it means being immersed in Radio or Audio, whatever you prefer to call it. In war in means that you’re not watching from a hill out of danger, but rather you’re in the trenches. In business, successful leaders are aware of how their operation operates, what’s important to their consumers, or in our case, listeners and advertisers. They understand the need to be able to motivate and lead to be able to accomplish the company’s goals. They’re in the trenches.

If you’ve been lucky enough to work for a great leader, you know what I’m talking about. They likely made you feel good about the job that you’re doing. They were encouraging, motivating, interested, understanding, on the same side of the table with you versus being adversarial, and they made you feel good about yourself. That in turn made you want to work for them, succeed for them, and in many cases emulate them. True leadership is a matter of commitment, conviction and the heart. I write this article from my own experiences having worked with and for some great leaders and having worked for some not-so-great leaders.

Great Leaders Message One Goal; what is the goal or objective of your business? Great leaders can communicate that goal succinctly, and explain how the goal will be accomplished, noting the markers along the way to arrive at success. One leader that I worked for talked of the point of departure and the point of arrival.

Great leaders are strategic; clearly defining and presenting the strategy to accomplish the goal. They tell you where you’re going, how you’ll get there and why the journey is taking place. They’re not hesitant to share the strategy with you. I’ve worked with those that have kept the strategy away from key members of their leadership team, almost in a passive aggressive way, which is not helpful.

To that end, communication is a required skill; the leader who can communicate clearly can lead to success more quickly. The successful former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll, once said “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what’s going on.” Keeping your team informed, and communicating with them frequently, engages your team more fully.

Great leaders have a bias for action, and they understand how to direct a team to execute a plan. While not every situation calls for the leader to be deeply immersed in the details, successful leaders understand what’s being executed by their team and why.

Motivation; that little nudge, push or excitement that you get from a positive leader can be exhilarating. Working for someone who you want to please, is a blessing to be cherished. The very best leaders motivate with recognition and reward. They also reprimand cautiously. This is where the Golden Rule comes into play.

Tough Decisions; leaders will face conflict in managing their business. The truly great leaders operate in a parental-like fashion. There is a fairness and an equality in how team members are treated, but there’s also a recognition of the reality that some children deserve love, and some children need love.

Leaders with a high degree of integrity make it a top priority to get to know their people in order to grow their people. They spend time pouring into the lives of others through mentoring and by giving them additional responsibilities that will help them grow and develop. Leaders who cannot satisfy their commitments to helping their team members expand their horizons will likely fail at creating strong relationships with their employees. If you say it, do it. Honesty is a trait to be applied to everything.

Every leader’s role should be about growing your business. If that’s about building an audience, be clear about that. If it’s about building a revenue stream, be clear about that. Great leaders are closest to the advertiser or listener experience. Everything they do is about improving that experience. A product driven leader is reflected in the performance of the product.

Leaders make the workplace safe. A culture of safety is one where team members are free to speak-up, make suggestions and give feedback, ask for help or ask questions without fear of it reflecting poorly on them. This approach often leads to an extension of tenure for employees. Fear of speaking up is detrimental to achieving a company’s full potential.

Leaders must be willing to listen to and consider accepting feedback. Many leaders don’t want to listen to suggestions, ideas, opinions, and are reluctant to accept constructive feedback about their performance. One of the best leaders that I ever worked with concluded an employee review, where I was being reviewed, by asking me “what can I do better as a leader?’ That doesn’t happen often.

It’s okay for a leader to show their vulnerability. I know that in this era, some may see that as a weakness, but showing that you’re human and vulnerable, makes it easier for a member of your team to relate to you. It also reinforces that they need not fear showing their vulnerabilities. It makes a leader likeable and relatable. Being vulnerable shows trust. Who doesn’t want to work for someone you can identify with and trust?

Leaders must act with the expression of respect, interest and care. That’s not advice to be interpreted as “touchy feely” but rather that if you respect those who work for you, they’ll respect you. If you are clear about your goals and objectives, and you communicate to your team the “why” of every strategy, the opportunity to achieve the objective becomes significantly greater.


Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Every word of this describes Dave Crowl who I had the great fortune of twice to being on his team at iHeart. Everyone would go through hell and back for Dave, because he led just this way. Our group regularly led the company in almost every category, so I can testify that this philosophy works extremely well. The problem will always be that so few so called “leaders” behave like this.


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