Defender of the Idea

Is this you?


There’s a really good book you should read: The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis. It’s the true story of the housing bubble and Wall Street malfeasance that led the world to the brink of total financial collapse in 2008. 

But I don’t want to write about high finance today, even though that story isn’t really over yet. I bring it up because of a phrase used in the book, “…Defender of the Idea.”

I bet you’ve run into this syndrome before.

You may have been the Defender of the Idea.

It’s where enough ego is connected to a decision that backing away from it becomes impossible, even if a better idea comes forward.

Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once said, “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.”

The problem with many radio companies these days is that while you definitely need to be astute politically to thrive, understanding the art of diplomacy won’t help you in the face of a terrible decision.

If the guys at the very top of your food chain have put themselves into the Defender of the Idea position, they’re going to take you down with them, rather than admit they screwed the pooch.

I know a PD in a midwestern market who was “advised” to run a certain TV ad (you know this is an old reference, because no one gets marketing money these days) by his VP of Programming.

Coincidentally, I had seen quite a bit of research on this particular spot, in various markets in the US and Europe, and it didn’t work for anyone, anywhere. And I could tell my PD friend why. I had the specifics.

But that didn’t matter. It didn’t help him. His VP of Programming had become the Defender of the Idea, so they ran the spot. Their ratings fell. They used the spot again next Book. Ratings fell again. The PD was fired.

The VP of Programming is still working.

We both know that’s not an isolated story.

This isn’t something you can change company-wide unless you’re at the CEO or President level. If you are, guard against this within your Group. If you’re at the VP level, or in any position of authority, try to be honest with yourself. Don’t push good people out the door to defend your own ego.

Be secure enough to let someone else have a good idea too.

Best of all, don’t put yourself into a position where as Defender of the Idea, you win the battle but lose the war…