You arrange people, systems, and resources in order to deliver desired results. You don’t get paid for doing any of your individual job tasks or for good intentions or results that you thought about delivering. You get paid for delivering desired results.
You know that your real job is about people and relationships and community, not about creating a stream of audio or a product. My first GM, Mike Agee, (who took a risk by giving me my first shot), said something kind of smart, at the beginning of my career. Brand new PD, totally doing his job well by being an anti-social music-scheduling geek, and I kept having people interrupt my work with questions. Slowing me down! So many interruptions! I finally went into his office and said, “Mike, I can’t get anything done! People keep interrupting me!” He very patiently looked at me, kind of paused for a long moment (really grateful that he didn’t say out loud every thought he was thinking at that point) and said, “Ty, the interruptions ARE the job.” Yes, if you are a Program Director, the interruptions are the job. And if enough people aren’t interrupting you, then you might want to go and interrupt them.
You serve sacrificially. As a Christian leader, your job is to set your team up for success. You do the hard work that no one else wants to do. You snowplow and salt and heat and dry the road for your team, and teammates so that they can drive on that road, as far and as fast as their God-given talents and work ethic will let them. That may mean making tough choices that benefit your team. That may mean the hard work of removing a toxic employee who is harming others or becoming a cancer to a healthy culture, or shielding your team from the arrows that can occasionally come from senior leadership or Nielsen or self-doubt, or a hundred other places—you take those arrows. You don’t pass them along to others. One big arrow to start with, is your own ego. Lay it down. Learn humility. Love others the way that the Lord Jesus loved us. Love covers over a multitude of sins.
You focus on culture more than strategy, and strategy more than tactics. It’s true that culture eats strategy for breakfast (thanks Peter Drucker). And it’s also true that strategy is indispensable.
You lead. You point to a better place and you communicate vision. You use your influence for the good of others and for the mission. You tap into the talent on your team.
Because everyone has influence, everyone is a leader (thanks, Clay Scroggins). And the number one job of every leader is to replace themselves. Succession training and succession planning, all of the time. Teach. Teach again. Keep teaching. Grow your people. Foster your team and their talents. Encourage them. Nurture them. Pray for the growth of their capacity. Challenge some of them to take more risks and some to think before they leap.
And don’t forget that while you may formally lead one team, your leadership (and your job performance) ripples outward to every part of your organization. The better you do, the better they do. Think globally, for the benefit of the organization, the listeners, the donors, advertising clients if you have them, etc. Think about the city (or cities) that you are serving and the people who aren’t listening. Think about all of the people who will benefit if your station or network does well. You are also there to serve them, so serve them well.
Speak engineer. Learn to speak fundraiser and promotions and digital and podcast, and music and copywriting and audio production and marketing and video production and HR and accounting and GM, etc., etc., and show your colleagues some respect by becoming a humble student of what they do. Become a sharper knife by asking questions. When you become a student of your craft and the crafts of others, you not only set your team up for success, you help set up all teams for success.
You are a Program Director not a Program Controller. You don’t micro-manage, you direct. If you think you are in control, gain some perspective. I’m grateful that I read an article on this topic years ago by Bob Thornton at KXOJ (one of the finest talent spotters and talent developers in our industry, hands down), where he made this point clearly. I also saw it modeled by many wise GM’s and other leaders over the years. People are smart and wonderfully creative. Paint needed lines on either side of the road, point your driver in the right direction, help them work on their car, put gas in their tank, and then get out of the way, get off the track and let them drive incredibly fast. You are the person with a headset on and a wrench in one hand, at the side of the track, you are not the one driving the car.
You are not a Program Director because you are the best at anything. You are a Program Director because you enable everyone around you to be the best at their thing. A leader who puts themself first is a leader who becomes a lid for their team and a lid for the organization (thanks Andy Stanley). You are the orchestra conductor down in the orchestra pit below the stage who waves their arms around in the air but doesn’t personally make a sound. You are not the star, and you are not on stage. Your job is to make much of others and to set them up for success on their stage.
So go do it! Do your job with excellence. Pray for help. The Lord is on the side of the humble. This is not a dress rehearsal.
Ty works at CRISTA Media and is the Program Director for SPIRIT 105.3 in Seattle and PRAISE 106.5 in Vancouver, BC.