The Bigger Picture: It Starts At The Top

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 9, 2021 

In a recent conversation with a colleague, I was asked what my favorite movie of all time was. I had a hard time narrowing it down to just one. My top three are “Any Given Sunday” with Al Pacino and several other A-listers, “The Replacements” with Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, and “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner and another group of A-Listers. Sorry it’s not “Pretty Woman” or “Pretty in Pink,” but I am the daughter of a football coach with three older brothers. These movies are about trust, strength, character, teamwork and most importantly, leadership. They get me fired up and remind me of the kind of leader I want to be and the kind of team I want to play on. It’s no secret that Drew Brees is one of my favorite people in the world. Say what you will about him (haters), but to me he was a better leader than even his coach, Sean Payton.

It’s also not a secret that traditional radio has taken a big hit in the last few years, even before the pandemic arrived, and the morale, perception, and passion for it has done a complete 180 from the days when people were working for years for free just to be a part of it. I have spent a lot of time in the last few years talking clients, friends, and colleagues in the business off the ledge, trying to keep them motivated and passionate about what they do, while also trying to help them think beyond the scope of traditional radio. The lack of trust, leadership and communication is causing an enormous amount of stress and anxiety among even the strongest and most successful people in the industry. It’s time to take a step back and remember that morale and success start at and come from the top.

It’s always a toss-up of who you get as a leader. Some are good, and some are bad. And regardless of which way they lean, again, the example starts at the top. A fitting example of this right now comes from the Las Vegas Raiders (Yes, another football reference). Currently in tragic turmoil which started with the downfall of Head Coach, Jon Gruden, whom we now know as the coach who was forced to step down after “The New York Times” leaked detailed emails in which he had made homophobic and misogynistic remarks, following an earlier report of racist statements about a union leader. Immediately following, Raiders Wide Receiver Henry Ruggs III was fired from the team and charged with several felonies after causing a fatal accident in Las Vegas which killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog. According to officials, he was driving approximately 156 miles an hour at the time of the accident and had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. No less than a week later, The Raiders released cornerback Damon Arnette from his contract after a video surfaced of the player appearing to wave a gun while making death threats. It wasn’t his first offense. Who is the leader (and adult) on this team?

But there are lessons to be learned from even the worst of managers. It didn’t take me long to figure out the lessons learned from my last two jobs in traditional radio. After working for the same company for 10 years with great leaders who motivated, trusted, and supported me, I found myself in a situation where I was not only set up to fail, but in a cancerous environment where my leader’s management strategy was that of a high school reality show and an unethical ticking time bomb. Honestly, I had no idea, even after 20 years in the business how to deal with that. The turnover rate before and after me in both instances was a testament to the culture of bad leadership. I was even warned by executives in my own company, “Do not take this job!” Lesson learned: The kind of manager I NEVER want to be.

I’m not joking when I say the lack of support and communication from the top in radio is causing an enormous amount of anxiety among talent and managers and it’s a HUGE problem right now. It’s affecting creativity, mentality, performance, and ratings. PD’s and talent are begging for feedback, information, or even just a “hey you’re on the right track or let’s talk about how we can do this better.” I get that people are overworked and trying to manage too many roles thanks to consolidation and helicopter management from the Ivory Towers, but think about your people like humans, like children. They are desperate for your attention. They don’t need you to micromanage, they just need you to care. It’s part of the job. Their behavior and performance are a direct reflection of your words and actions. So, while you are busy enjoying your “title” and comfy paycheck, remember that your biggest priority is good leadership. Remember the success of any organization or team starts at the top.