What is Leadership?

By David Kidd, BPR

In radio, like many businesses, people rise through the ranks to finally be promoted into leadership positions. You started out on air, then added on an assistant programming role and finally became a Program/Content Director. Then perhaps your role expanded to Group Programming.


But along the way, you probably had no formal training on how to become an effective leader.

Not everyone makes a good leader. Some people in formal leadership positions are poor leaders and many people exercising leadership have no formal authority.

McKinsey & Company recently published an article titled “What is Leadership?”.

Here are a few salient points from the article.

“All leaders, to a certain degree, do the same thing. Whether you’re talking about an executive, manager, sports coach, or schoolteacher, leadership is about guiding and impacting outcomes, enabling groups of people to work together to accomplish what they couldn’t do working individually. In this sense, leadership is something you do, not something you are.

What’s more, leadership is not something people are born with—it is a skill you can learn. Just as for leadership more broadly, today’s environment requires CEOs to lead very differently. Recent research indicates that one-third to one-half of new CEOs fail within 18 months.

There are many contexts and ways in which leadership is exercised. But, according to McKinsey analysis of academic literature as well as a survey of nearly 200,000 people in 81 organizations all over the world, there are four types of behavior that account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness

  • Being supportive
  • Operating with a strong results orientation
  • Seeking different perspectives
  • Solving problems effectively


Effective leaders know that what works in one situation will not necessarily work every time. Leadership strategies must reflect each organization’s context and stage of evolution.

How is leadership evolving?

In the past, leadership was called “management,” with an emphasis on providing technical expertise and direction.

What are the limits of traditional management styles?

Traditional management was revolutionary in its day and enormously effective in building large-scale global enterprises that have materially improved lives over the past 200 years. However, with the advent of the 21st century, this approach is reaching its limits.

For one thing, this approach doesn’t guarantee happy or loyal managers or workers. Indeed, a large portion of American workers—56 percent— claim their boss is mildly or highly toxic , while 75 percent say dealing with their manager is the most stressful part of their workday.

For 21st-century organizations operating in today’s complex business environment, a fundamentally new and more effective approach to leadership is emerging.

What is the emerging new approach to leadership?

This new approach to leadership is sometimes described as “servant leadership.” While there has been some criticism of the nomenclature, the idea itself is simple: rather than being a manager directing and controlling people, a more effective approach is for leaders to be in service of the people they lead. The focus is on how leaders can make the lives of their team members easier— physically, cognitively, and emotionally.


How can leaders communicate effectively?

Good, clear communication is a leadership hallmark. Fundamental tools of effective communication include:

  • Defining and pointing to long-term goals
  • Listening to and understanding stakeholders
  • Creating openings for dialogue communicating proactively


And in times of uncertainty, these things are important for crisis communicators:

  • Give people what they need, when they need it
  • Communicate clearly, simply, and frequently
  • Choose candour over charisma
  • Revitalize a spirit of resilience
  • Distil meaning from chaos
  • Support people, teams, and organizations to build the capability for self-sufficiency


As McKinsey points out, like many things, leadership as a concept is evolving, especially as a result of the pandemic. If you’re in a leadership position at a radio station, ensure your style fits with what is required in 2022…. not 2002.



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