Make A Plan: Charting Key Steps on Path to Management, Leadership Roles

Taking measured, steady steps into leadership can begin with confidence.

Taking measured, steady steps into leadership can begin with confidence.

A position in management does not land on you when you open the window.

In media leadership, strategies to achieve a higher position in management take intention and purpose, according to speakers at a gathering of more than 200 women in media at the recent Journalism & Women Symposium annual conference and mentoring project in Roanoke, Va.

Just as you cannot build a house without a blue print, you cannot build a career without a plan. Leadership roles are the result of specific strategies and action plans.

Just as you can’t build a house without a blue print, you can’t build a career without a plan #womenleaders

Teresa Schmedding, managing editor for Rotary International, rated as the fifth most influential charitable organization in the world, offered specific advice, including, “Chart a plan to get there.“ She added, “You are never just lucky. You are prepared for opportunities that come along. Take small, steady steps.”

Advice to move into media management is necessary. The representation of women in newsrooms, and particularly in leadership, has maintained a low rate for decades and is surveyed each year by the American Society of News Editors .

According to the most recent 2016 study, “Women made up about a third of newsroom employees overall, with a higher number employed at online-only sites than at newspapers. Women comprised 38 percent of daily newspaper employees in this year’s survey and nearly 50 percent of online-only news organization employees.”

Other findings from the ASNE study include: “Women were the majority of the workforce at 37 percent of the online sites and at 14 percent of the daily newspapers.” Even as the majority of employees in many organizations are women, they are a much smaller position of those in leadership roles. “ Of all supervisors, about 13 percent were minorities and 37 percent women.”

As quoted in ASNE, “The numbers seem to be moving in the right direction, but the pace of diversity needs to quicken to catch up with the population,” said ASNE President Pam Fine. “We must ask ourselves how we can do a better job of inspiring people of color and women to go into the profession, hire them at good wages, and give them opportunities to influence coverage and advance through the ranks. The purpose of the ASNE survey is to stimulate these efforts. It’s one of the ways ASNE champions diversity in newsrooms and in leadership.”

At the recent JAWS conference, Amy Resnick, the editor of Pensions & Investments, New York, offered tactics for advancing into leadership, but added a different twist. “When you look at yourself, tell yourself you can do it, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. That’s the job to go for.”

Other strategies for climbing into management, Schmedding said, include: “Don’t take yourself out of the game and undervalue yourself.  Assume you can do it.” “You will be regarded as a tough negotiator,” she said. “And don’t accept poor treatment. You deserve to have a good work life.”

When discussing a new management position or looking to jump into leadership roles, Resnick advised that you should not take the first offer. Instead you should counter with higher base salary, perhaps, or other requests.  If you do that, you will be seen as a tough negotiator. She also said the value of the new title can go beyond salary and include training, workshops, and development.

Your list of requirements for a new position has to include what you really want, said Sheila Solomon, award-winning journalist, and former newsroom leader. ”Be creative and flexible, ask to attend week-long workshops and make connections. If you want to be in management, speak in front of people,” she said.

Other tips from Schmedding, Resnick and Solomon to make the leap into leadership roles:

  • Share, don’t shirk credit. Accept compliments and own your success. Learn to say thank you because otherwise you are saying do not value me.

  • Build a posse. Hangout with leaders whom you admire. And want to be. Avoid toxic people because you will be judged by the company you keep. Toxic people cast a shadow over you. Find a mentor.

  • Don’t gossip or complain at work. Admit mistakes and do not blame others. Ask advice, follow up and share corrections widely. That way management learns to trust you more as someone who is honest about her mistakes.

  • Offer to take on challenges. Be the solutions person. Take risks and do not think traditionally. Volunteer to give post-mortems on projects, say what went well, what could have gone better.

  • Be in the know, not a know it all. Be great at something and become the voice of your industry. Offer to speak, offer to lead, build yourself up as an expert.

  • Do not personalize rejection. Learn from every rejection, ask what is need for the next time and examine the skill set of the person who was hired.

Don’t personalize rejection. Ask what’s need for next time. #workingwomen #taketheleadwomen

“Try to find the confidence,” said Resnick. “That confidence will serve you well. Apply for that job again, and find it within yourself to believe in yourself.”

Solomon added, “Always look for cross-training opportunities.”

Also speaking at the JAWS conference was Kathy Bonk, co-founder and executive director of the Communications Consortium Media Center, adviser to Ms. Magazine and Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. She offered a different take on leadership, one that is less obvious but also extremely effective.

“If you want to get things done, you can do a lot more behind the scenes than you can upfront,” Bonk said.

Working from 1975-1995 for the U.N. World Conferences on Women, chairing the NOW Media Committee that brought dozens of legal challenges against media companies resulting in promoting women into leadership positions,  and also serving on several boards including the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Bonk said she appreciate changes you can implement with persistent hard work out of the spotlight.

Bonk added, “That is good servant leadership when you are not in front of the charge, but you work behind the scenes.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon