The United States has a new manager, and it’s a good bet you’ve noticed.
The shift from Donald Trump to Joe Biden is likely the most dramatic transition we’ve seen in style between an outgoing president and an incoming one in the modern era. Forget about which political party they’re affiliated with — their approach to the job is distinctly different: Trump is more of a top-down, my-way-or-the-highway kind of boss, while Biden prefers to manage more collaboratively.
Given the frequency of job-hopping or market changes within the music and broadcast businesses, most veterans in either field have experienced a 180-degree change in their work atmosphere, whether they transitioned to a new company or had a new GM take over. The way their new manager leads has a huge impact on how employees view their roles.
“You notice it right away,” says consultant John Shomby, who spent four years as Cumulus director of Nash programming before setting out as an advisor for radio talent and recording artists under the billing of “Country’s Radio Coach.” “Probably the second or third or fourth day in, it’s ‘Oh, my goodness, I have a different person here, and I have to do this now rather than that.’ It changes the way you think.”
Neither a centralized Trump approach nor a collaborative Biden style is necessarily better, says Shomby, who serves as vp on the board for the Country Radio Seminar, set for Feb. 16-19. A more forceful CEO can bring quick order to a chaotic organization, though if top-down leadership turns into micromanaging, it tends to discourage self-starting employees over the long haul. On the other hand, the collaborative executive may inspire more immediate creativity, only to see employees eventually begin to wander from the mission.
The best managers, notes Shomby, are able to tailor their approach based on the dynamics within the company, leaning toward authoritarianism in one period, then tilting toward teamwork when the circumstances change.
“Managers you see that are sitting at radio stations or clusters for long periods of time,” he says, are “usually the ones who are doing that and doing that well.”
Broadcasters and music industry executives will have a chance to reexamine and refine their own management approaches when CRS convenes virtually Feb. 16-19. Several panels are specifically geared toward management issues, including “ ’Til the Wellness Runs Dry: How to Handle the Anxiety of the Music Business,” “PPP: Post-Pandemic Playbook” and “TLC: Talent Loving Coaching.”
“If you’re in a leadership position at your radio station, [those sessions] can help you because you’ll see that other people have gone through what you’ve gone through and how they’ve dealt with it,” says Shomby.
Americans often learn from others by seeing their own issues mirrored in the national spotlight. The country took COVID-19 more seriously, for example, after actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted it last March. Glen Campbell’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease raised people’s awareness of the disorder and their willingness to discuss it.
It is likewise easier to identify and evaluate the consequences of a particular management approach by seeing it play out from a distance, whether that’s in the Oval Office or in a stadium.
“You see different [management styles] in different sports all the time when a coach with a different philosophy comes in after someone else,” says Shomby. “The New York Giants were a really good football team for quite some time with Tom Coughlin’s style. He was very much a my-way-or-the-highway type of a guy. But that got old after a while, and the team started to lose. They found someone else who could bring the team together, but it took them a while to do that.”
The following Trump/Biden management checklist — assembled by the Billboard Country Update and massaged by Shomby — highlights the chasm between the two presidents’ styles, separate from their party affiliations or policy positions. Managers should be able to gauge their own style by looking at the differences between the two leaders, and prospective employees might also benefit from examining particular traits that they desire in a boss when they interview for their next position:
• Persona Trump is a bigger-than-life character. Biden is more folksy and grandfatherly.
• Messaging Trump is a master at distilling concepts down to short slogans, and he will repeat a message to make it take hold. Biden tends to elaborate more on details and take side trips when explaining a concept.
• Workplace culture Trump encouraged competition among team members on The Celebrity Apprentice, sometimes chiding them for not being more ruthless. Biden has told administration staff that if he sees anyone disrespect a colleague, he will fire them on the spot.
• Loyalty Trump famously prioritizes it. Biden does not highlight it.
• Decision-making Trump trusted his gut instinct first on topics ranging from war tactics to health. Biden is giving his experts more room to speak publicly and has pledged to let science guide policies.
• Creating expectations Trump made bold up-front predictions, giving people immediate hope but increasing the likelihood of disappointment. Biden is showing a tendency to make pledges that are more prudent, reducing short-term enthusiasm but improving the chances that he will match or exceed expectations.
• Short-term vs. long-term plans Trump’s policies and positions were often presented with a focus on the current moment; Biden usually addresses issues with a nod to the long-term consequences.
• Speed Trump removed hurdles to get COVID-19 vaccines approved faster. The jury is out on Biden in terms of swift results, though he has been ultra quick on executive orders.
Go here for details about the CRS agenda.
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