Leadership: The Very Human Factor


(By Deborah Parenti) Much has been written about leadership and how leaders chart the course, providing a vision designed to take the company to the next level.

While this has always been a frequently cited job description for leaders, numerous types of personalities lead the way, and with that, numerous ways of executing leadership. Some leaders possess dynamic personalities. You feel their presence when they step into the room. There is an air about them that stems from the power they hold over the lives and fortunes of so many.

Some, however, demonstrate their leadership in quieter ways. They insinuate and lean in rather than overshadow and perhaps even overwhelm, however unintended. The best leaders are probably a combination of both. People want the assurance that “someone has the answers” and is comfortable leading the way. Decisiveness instills confidence in others. But people also look to someone who they feel understands and takes an interest in their aspirations and future. They want a team leader, not an autocratic bureaucrat.

Justin Hale, speaker and training designer for Crucial Learning, offered an excellent observation in a recent Forbes column. “In 2023 more than ever, leaders need to be less strategy experts and more human experts. In other words, leaders need to become experts in why people do what they do if they want to help their people act differently. Ultimately, leadership is about intentionally influencing behavioral change. Leaders don’t influence outcomes; they influence humans to act in ways that drive outcomes. Behavior change is the job of a leader.”

In his 2017 book Hit Refresh, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes that great leaders “recognize the true signal within a lot of noise” and act accordingly. Especially since the pandemic, there has been plenty of noise — noise that doesn’t appear to be letting up. More is demanded of leaders today in more areas than ever before. 

There are the challenges of constantly evolving technology, including the emergence of AI, which brings both unique possibilities and pitfalls. Hiring and retaining qualified talent in an environment where more demands are being made by hires such as remote work options. Choppy economic circumstances and rising interest rates driving cost-cutting in the face of a need to invest in expanding platform offerings that allow radio to compete not only in the audio world but against a larger overall competitive environment.

Yet despite all of that, Hale provides wise counsel to leaders about the need to pay more attention to the human factor. And it’s a consensus with widespread support among executive coaches and consultants. David Liddell, Liddell Consulting Group LLC, sums it up well. “Even with the projected recession, employee retention — and specifically retention of top performers — is a top issue for CEOs in 2023. Organizational leaders, top to bottom, need to be highly effective at relationship-building and staying connected with the health of the culture so that employees feel a true sense of ownership and engagement.”

This year’s list of the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio offers a multi-faceted group of distinct personalities. While all are in the business of broadcasting, a diversity of focuses based on company size, complexion, and resources might have one tend to consider their differences over their commonality. And yet each one of them deals with the human factor, a factor no doubt heightened because the business of radio is connection — connection with listeners and advertisers. And it takes people to connect with people, particularly when those connections are local.

It all leads to the question: As leaders, are we connecting regularly with our teams, including, at least on occasion, those who may be far-flung or down the ranks? Because building business is about relationships. And not just outside the station door.

See the Top 40 Most Powerful People in Radio exclusively in this month’s Radio Ink Magazine with a digital or print subscription here.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. Reach Deborah at [email protected]. Read her Radio Ink digital archives here.


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