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Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 11:58 AM

Differentiating between management and leadership.

By William Dunkerley

Today's magazine publishing organizations need leadership, not simply management.

What's the difference between the two?

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Vineet Nayar put it this way: "Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual's ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control."

A Vacuum of Leadership

There's something that brought this dichotomy to my attention. Our sister publication, Editors Only, recently surveyed editors about their goals for this year. One of the findings is that many editors either don't have anything specific in mind or are avoiding the issue.

That suggests to me that at many magazines there is a vacuum of leadership. Publishers are the ones that should be playing a key role in stimulating a vision of where a publication is headed. But do they? Do you?

I've observed one situation that in some cases has beclouded the matter of leadership. It emerges when there is misunderstanding of the concept of keeping editorial separate from advertising. The result is that the publisher spends her time focused on ad sales and other business matters. The editor is left to handle everything editorial on his own.

That's fine when you're working in a static environment, one where there's no need to make continual adjustments in direction. But that's not where our industry is now.

This dilemma reminds me of lines from an old Dan Fogelberg song:

"It's never easy and it's never clear, Who's to navigate and who's to steer, And so you flounder, drifting ever near the rocks."

I'm not saying that publishers should dictate editorial policies to editors. They shouldn't. But there's got to be a shared vision as to where the publication is headed and how to navigate the way.

Where "Manager" Publishers Go Wrong

Publishers who are stuck in a "manager" frame of mind are at a disadvantage when it comes to providing leadership and shepherding organizational change. That deficit has stimulated a lot of consulting business for me over the years. My organization development training and experience have gotten a good workout.

But the "manager" publisher who wants to go it alone has got some catching up to do.

An Upcoming Publishing Leadership Course

Recently I learned of an upcoming Yale University program that may help such a publisher. It's called the "Yale Publishing Course: Leadership Strategies in Magazine and Digital Media." It will be held on the Yale campus from July 22 to 27, 2018.

Here's what the course brochure says:

"The curriculum examines the challenges and opportunities of the ever-changing publishing landscape. You will learn from industry leaders like Cindi Leive (Glamour magazine), Richard Stolley (People and Time, Inc.), Kim Kelleher (Wired), Michael Clinton (Hearst Magazines), and Kevin Delaney (Quartz). Globally renowned Yale School of Management faculty will lead sessions on current management thinking, including:

--Leadership in Turbulent Times
--Innovation Strategy
--Rethinking Consumer Behavior
--Brand Building in a Digital Age"

Yale associate dean Molly Nagler remarked, "Publishing is a complex, changing, global industry, where innovation is key -- and it's one that plays a hugely important role in our society. Our faculty are focused on bringing together multiple disciplines to understand that kind of complexity at the nexus of business and society, and we are the most global US business school."

We're not connected with this program, but its description sounds pretty good to me. I'm impressed that the faculty includes not only magazine publishing experts, but experienced organizational development professionals as well. That's exactly what's needed for an effective program. Perhaps you should check it out.

Assessing Your Own Leadership Abilities

Meanwhile it might be instructive for you to conduct a self-assessment. Are you providing management or leadership at your publication?

Nayar suggests a litmus test: "The quickest way to figure out which of the two you're doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader."

He adds, "Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence."

It's time for you to start creating your own circle of influence if you don't already have one.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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