Leading By Letting Go

Harder than it sounds

As hard as it is to accept, no one ever produced anything great because they were told to.

The most frustrating effect of radio consolidation has been the disempowerment of local programmers and staff.

No Senior VP of Programming walks into a local station and says, “Hey, I want to micro-manage you. I want you to be afraid to make any risky decision without also worrying about how quickly you’ll lose your job if I don’t agree with it.”

But the effect is the same, because their actions, your company culture, scream that louder than any words they utter to the contrary.

I’ve got friends who’ve lost jobs because the results of a group decision weren’t great, and the VP wasn’t going to fire himself.

Nothing great has ever been produced because someone was told to do it.

Telling people what to do (and often, how to do it) is the opposite of responsibility, especially when those people are fired for doing what they’re told.

I know people, good people, with corporate responsibilities who struggle with this, who will themselves be judged by their superiors if they empower local PDs and staffs to take full responsibility for the content on their stations.

The whole top-down judgmental thing is real; I get that.

But if you cannot trust your local staffs to be great, you either have the wrong staff, or you’re in the wrong position.

Greatness cannot be commanded.

It must be nurtured, protected, and respected.

Greatness cannot happen without risk, and if every failure is met with dismissal and public humiliation, why would anyone reach for it, because risk implies failure.

If you’re not failing, at least sometimes, you’re probably not taking enough risks.

I realize this is much easier to talk about than to do, but if you’re at the corporate level in your company, try to take this step. Try to let go, just a bit.

Try to reward risky decision-making at the local level, even when it doesn’t work out well. Reward the attempt, the vision, the desire to create something special, even if that attempt falls short.

Just try.

Remember, nothing great has ever been created because some guy in upper management told someone to do it.