By Criselda Caringal, Alla Nadezhkina, and Miguel Otárola
Inspired by the book “Leadership from the Inside Out,” by Kevin Cashman.
When it comes to leading through service, the most important point to remember is that the needs of the team come before the need for results. A proper work environment puts the needs of the workers first – by listening to them and putting them in a comfortable place to create and share ideas. This is critical for the media or newsroom environment, where a lot of work is dependent on creating quality and engaging storytelling (most of that work is also collaborative).
Everyone has had different experiences when it comes to leaders serving their team. Here are a few stories, each coming from a unique background (from Russia, the Philippines, and within the newsroom of the Downtown Devil):
Alla Nadezhkina said the best organizations listen to the voices of all team members:
I would like to talk about my job experiences in a team of leaders.
I was lucky to be part of this team, as it allowed me to get a great experience and develop my professional competencies in the media world-class company – Russian information agency Novosti.
The organizational structure of our company was built on the classical scheme. The general in charge of editorial policy was chief editor Svetlana Mironyuk. Her deputy led the major activities of the specialized agencies. I played the role of the spokesperson.
Through the leadership and management skills of Svetlana Mironyuk, our agency worked harmoniously as a single mechanism. A main driving force was the understanding of all the employees of the agency. We create an information space for debate in society, and, in the end, create the image of our country in the world.
We all interacted with each other and supported each other. It was a model of collective decision-making, taking into account the opinions of everyone, and each felt like making a feasible contribution to the common cause. Much attention is paid to the social care of employees, so employees at work feel at home, which also affected the performance and quality of issued content.
I believe that it was a job in a media ‘dream team’.
Sometimes unnecessary issues arise if the needs of employees are not heard, Criselda Caringal said:
Before leaving the Philippines, there was a bitter dispute between a hundred of my colleagues and the broadcast network we were working for.
It was a classic case of how a broadcasting media giant can neglect the needs of its life and blood… meaning, the needs of its producers, researchers, directors and production assistants who persevere to produce the network’s award-winning programs.
Production staff that have been working for years as contractual talents finally spoke out and asked for simple benefits that any regular employee would have. This was a cause that the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines supported.
Needless to say, a court case was filed against the network for undue labor practices and my colleagues won. But how this labor struggle will finally end is yet to be seen.
Miguel Otárola has seen his own leadership falter when he didn’t provide the right communication outlets for his editors:
There have been times when I thought I was getting proper feedback from my team, only to see that I was not cultivating a proper feedback environment.
As EIC of Downtown Devil, I like to ask my editors after meetings “How things are going”. Many times, these editors would say “Everything is going fine.” Yet when the editors met by themselves one weekend, they later came to me and told me about several issues they were dealing with and wanted to fix.
While I was a bit shocked that they hadn’t told me any of this before, I realized that they were able to come to these conclusions as a team and without my possibly intimidating guidance. The team meeting by themselves to discuss problems was very beneficial, and now we have editors meet weekly to discuss their work.
What environment are you creating?
A person may think she is leading by serving employees, only to learn employees believe the intentions are selfish. To work towards creating selfless leadership, a leader constantly needs to both analyze the reasons why she makes certain choices and ask team members to keep her accountable. A leader’s ideas and tactics may sometimes fail; when it happens, a team can and will let the leader know.
This comes from listening, not just hearing. Not a top-down approach, but in many ways bottom-up. And as Cashman writes, “Authenticity is the core of relationship around which synergy and trust grow.”
A leader gathers the best feedback when the team is in a proper place to share things openly, and one must be genuine in creating that environment.
P.S From Miguel: “A book I’m reading that deals incredibly well with this topic is Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull. It talks about the offices of Pixar, and the company’s business to make sure it creates the best environment for its employees.”