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Leader vs. Manager in a 2 Minute Read

I think my brother is a great leader. Much better than me…

For years his career was focused on leading newsrooms for mid-market, local TV stations and he earned a somewhat of a reputation as a “fix-it” guy.  He’s very good at what he does.

Because he’s “mid-market” many of his employees have little experience when he hires them – a lot of college kids with nothing but journalism degrees and small market reporters taking their next step. In baseball terms, he’s the Manager for the Durham Bulls…. (look it up…)

With that being said, a few years ago he was invited to interview with a larger station. It was an interesting story.

During his meeting with the station GM, and in the middle of a focused conversation, a young Assistant Producer made a mistake during the noon newscast. It wasn’t huge, but if you were a viewer, you’d notice it. It’s local TV… not the Superbowl, right? 

Who cares?

Evidently, the CEO cared. 

Within 2 minutes of the mistake airing the CEO of the station’s ownership company was on newsroom floor – bypassing the GM, News Director, Producer and everyone else in the chain of command – and ripped this 20-something year old lady completely apart – in public, with uncalled for ferocity and aggression.

Distracted by the situation the GM stepped out of their meeting to defuse the situation, as my brother watched through a window from 15 feet away. 

After the dust settled the interview got restarted and the question came down to the obvious “why should we hire you?” His answer was beautiful…!

Because if you hire me, that BULLSHIT I just watched will never happen again in this newsroom…” 

It’s a good thing he didn’t want the job, anyway.

There are some things that I love to see when I watch my brother work:

He’s a teacher. Many of his employees arrive with nothing but a journalism degree. He teaches them TV news and real life journalism. He is always teaching.

He’s tough and demands perfection. Mistakes are not a big deal. He will show you how to fix them. He will never berate you – certainly not in public – but laziness and substandard work is not accepted. He makes people work hard and those who don’t want to do that are invited to leave.

He’s competitive. He loves stomping his competition and he always wants to do better. His competitiveness is infectious in his newsroom and his people strive to be the best THEY can be. There is a high level of intensity is in the atmosphere.

He’s in the trenches. On Friday night he’ll often grab a camera and film high school football. There are not enough cameramen to shoot all of the local games.

He wants his employees to do well. If he does his job right his best employees will leave him for bigger markets and better jobs. He knows it…  Constantly hiring and backfilling and moving people around is tiresome, and it sucks. But the more he does it, the more successful he feels. There are a few network anchors – with multi-million dollar contracts – who can thank my brother for giving them their first job, literally!

He cares. His only goal is to put out a great product, produce great people, and get the ratings up. Those 3 things come before his personal career needs / desires. If those things happen then everything else falls into place.

He inspires. At every moment of every working day he is inspiring his people to do better. Never accepts status quo, never accepts being average and will always protect his people when they need protecting.

He loves what he does. His enthusiasm for his work resounds in every conversation he has. 

He’s 80% loved. Twenty percent of your employees hate you. That’s life. Of the others, I can’t count how many have come to me and said “your brother is the best boss I ever had. He has made me better at what I do.”

It boils down to this… Leaders are the people who are down in the trenches every day, but who work to elevate their people, situations and businesses to levels nobody ever thought could be achieved. They never quit until they reach that which they set out to achieve. 

That is my brother…  He is a leader!

The CEO who berated his employee… he’s a Manager.

Now you know the difference.

Craig Picken is an Executive Recruiter focusing on senior leaders in the Aerospace and Aviation industry