Students Leading Students

When communicating, listening is as important as speaking. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said and relating that to your experiences but rather putting yourself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning. Stephen Covey describes this as "Seek to be Understood," in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

When Students Lead Students

Making the transition from staff member to leader can be tough on the leader, and it can be even tougher on those who must now work FOR instead of WITH their friends. Students that must go through this friend-to-business transition can jeopardize both their friendships and their control of an effective newsroom.

  • Discuss with your staff ahead of time how you plan to deal with controversy with your then-friends and now-employees. Don't let there be surprises.
  • Describe clearly the role you now play and the roles of each staffer. This is where it becomes vitally important to have job descriptions.
  • Be careful you don't show favoritism to your friends, but also be careful you don't hold them to a higher standard because they are your friends.
  • Be consistent in what you do so there are no surprises-how you treat one person is how you should treat everyone.
  • Consult with your adviser or a member of your editorial staff if you are afraid you cannot be impartial in staff situations.


Effective communication is a necessity to good leadership. The results of good communication are subtle, but the effects of poor communication can wreak havoc on your newsroom. Remember that communication requires two parts (sender and receive), and you must play both parts effectively as a leader.

Be factual and objective
Address one issue at a time
Use concrete terms
Avoid inflammatory labeling
Use words of appreciation
Praise for good work
Ask for one observable, reasonable behavior change
Negotiate if necessary
Repeat requests several times before bringing out the big guns
Don't exaggerate
Don't name to call
Describe your emotions


Don't give "you" messages, like "You make me feel…”
Don't attack character
Don't use old slogans, like "Grow up" or "Shape up"
Don't provoke feelings of guilt
Don't indicate you don't think the person can change
Don't request too large a change or too many changes
Don't use consequences until possibilities have been exhausted
Don't make idle threats you can't (or won't) carry out

Using Your Powers

As a newsroom manager, you will be given some new-found power you may not be used to.
How you deal with that power is indicative of how effective you will be as a leader. It is important for leaders to realize how you are using your power, as sometimes that use happens inadver¬tently. Below are three ways that you should be aware that you can use your power as a manager:

This is your power to stop things from happening or people from progressing. In a bottom-up management system, you wouldn't have to use this power much, unless one of your writers insists on mooning your financial aid director through the window of your newsroom. Managers who regularly use this power may stifle the value efforts of subordinates, "just because they can," and may not be good managers. When consider¬ing using this power, examine your motive- is it just to establish your position? Are you trying to remind people that you're the boss, or are you truly looking out for the mission of your paper?

The power of persuasion means articulating WHY you want something a certain way at a certain time by a certain person. It also means including that person in the decision. You're not trying to convince; they already know you're the boss and they will have to do it anyway. Persuasion is more subtle, humane and effective. This isn't about creating pals on your staff. This is about creating a team atmosphere in which all members of the staff feel a share of the day-to-day decisions.

Entrusting is similar to delegating in that you invite people in so you aren't hoarding the workload and micro-managing their every move. Regularly include your team in formal and informal meetings about the important stuff that has to be done and ask them where they see themselves fitting into that scheme. When you learn to harness the enthusiasm they may have for getting to see the big picture, you will become a real leader. This, however, requires having a staff around that is the best it can be and that you respect and who respect you.

Building Trust
Clearly layout your expectations and follow through on them
If you make promises, keep them
Keep your staff in the loop, especially for big, sticky decisions. Your staff will stand by you if they've been included in the decision-making
Train them then trust them
Expect them to consult you on the hard calls, then stand by them
Hold your staff to no standard you won't hold yourself to
Let your staff see your mistakes - keep reminding them you don't know it all
Praise in public, criticize in private
Call them on their mistakes, especially when they've violated your trust
Constantly reinforce your ideas by us¬ing the word trust, but be careful not to devaluate the word by overuse
Make sure your sources, readers and advertisers can trust the paper.
Trusting your employees is the easy part, while getting them to trust you can take some work.

Where the Real Power Is
As an editor, you are in charge of the voice that your newspaper has. This is an imperative power, as what you do provides other with something crucial. These powers are the cornerstone of democracy on which our country was built. By making the people's agenda YOUR agenda, you can ensure the very survival of the truth in an otherwise unsure world. Now that's power.

Power, of course, is easily abused. Yes, by managing the product of your paper, you have the ability to profoundly affect the thoughts and beliefs-the lives-of your read¬ers. But the founding ideal of journalism in America is to share that power of informa¬tion, to transfer the power to the populace, to empower them to make important deci¬sions. Whom will they elect as SGA President? Will they ever again trust Professor X? Should they leave early for the holiday break in order to beat the blizzard?

This is that power afforded to us by the edict that we should monitor all the other modes of power in our society, notably, the government. Think of this as the power of keeping the balance. Journalism as the "Fourth Estate," the unblinking, uncolored eye that watches on behalf of those who would otherwise stay blind to the goings-on of our leaders (in the case of college papers, the student government and campus administra¬tion, as well as the greater government). Another way of looking at it is from the vaults of journalism proverbs: we possess the power of the "watchdog." His power comes not from biting, by the way, but from growling -sometimes barking-before the house is robbed.

We must be careful not to exploit this power, the power of suggestion. As manager in your newsroom, you should be vigilant about what you suggest in your stories. Run¬ning a story that tags someone overtly (or craftily) as a sex-offender, for example, or even associates them in a vague way with an "accusation," will likely have devastating real-world consequences for that story's subject. There might also be legal ramifica¬tions. Likewise, naming someone who attempts suicide. Implying that an administrator skimmed money. Insinuating that two people are sexually involved. These stories might very well be true, but that's not the point. Just remember that power. The vast majority of us have not been privy to the inner workings of al-Queda, for example, nor have we even perused any evidence collected by the authorities. But how many of us believe they were responsible for the World Trade Center attack? And where did we get that impres¬sion? If you see and hear in the media the name Osama bin Laden in the same sentence with "terrorist" 500 times a week, you will believe he is a terrorist (for the record, he probably is, of course; also not the point.)

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles range the spectrum of human personalities, from Hitler to Mother Theresa. In addition, many people combine several leadership styles to fit their leadership personality.
When perfecting your leadership style, consider the idea of bottom-up management. You would probably resent it if someone above you dictated exactly how you should do your job. You would probably get frustrated if a resistant boss curbed your creativity and enthusiasm. You probably wouldn't enjoy your job if you sensed your boss didn't trust you or didn't recognize the value of your contributions, right?

Think about what staff members expect from you. Think about fostering a bottom-up management system where core staff members feel and act responsible for the vital role they play. Help them learn to make decisions rather than making decisions for them.
Below are four leadership styles that are typically used. Different situations call for differ¬ent leadership styles.

Relies on rules and directives, preferably in writing
Refers to decision-makers as "they"
Uses an impersonal style
Knows "proper channels" and the "right way to get things done"

Operates out of personal experience; has skills needed to perform work
Feels there is no substitute for preparation and practice
Able to demonstrate how to perform a task
Acts directly to get results under pressure
Tends to "keep a hand in the business," sometimes unnecessarily

Maintains personal relationships with each staff member
Tries to build trust
Sets mutual goals with each staff member
Encourages and expresses disappointment when a person fails to meet goals
Attempts to help individuals achieve satisfaction from work

Personal Trainer
Uses work group for both motivation and discipline
Stresses openness and consensus
Tries to balance group choices and organizational goals
Shares responsibility with the group, but assures the paper's expectations are achieved
Believes that "we" are powerful

Knowing your staff's expectations will help you determine your leadership style. A simple exercise to find this is an activ¬ity you can do at an orientation. Have each staffer write down his/her expectations of him/herself, of you, of other staffers and of your adviser on a separate note cards. Drop the note cards into separate containers and draw one out at a time and discuss the items as a group.
Another management style is called "management by exception,” which means a staff member doesn't need to meet with you about a special project or regular work unless something is going wrong. In other words, make sure they understand your basic expectations and then let them do their job. This is a technique that has proven well if it meets the expectations of the staff being managed.

The Art of Leadership

Catch people doing things right.
In a discussion, treat each person as your number-one priority at that moment.

Practice candor. Practice it again.
Deliver negative feedback quickly.

Develop a learning culture, with seminars, visiting experts, team learning.
Build unity. Keep the guns pointed outside.

Don't deliver criticism by e-mail.

Seek diversity in sources and experts.

Take the last few minutes of a meeting to summarize what's been agreed to and who has the responsibility for each next step, by specific schedule.

Crisis Management
Get the facts. Don't rush to a decision. Know when decisions are necessary. Never be stampeded. Never rush when you're in a hurry.
Consult widely with people of good judgment outside and inside the organization.

Don't bear grudges. Have an argument-then move on to new business.
There's always tomorrow. Let people know, especially when things go wrong.

As a leader, remember your moods are contagious. Show them wisely.
Live the values you preach. On core principles, don't wriggle under pressure.
Live by the "No Surprise" rule. Instruct subordinates not to surprise you by decisions they have made. Have them bring you any potential big surprises. It's a test of their judgment to bring you only the important ones.

Do your best for the problem individual, but put the institution's credibility first.
Have the courage to move out people who, after fair chances and feedback, don't measure up. Be sure they had been given a clear path to improvement.

Choosing leaders
Don't be overswayed by brilliance. Find people with credibility with other staffers. -Look carefully at past effectiveness; it's a good guide to future effectiveness.

Editing & Fairness
Push reporters to take risks, then demand care in the writing.
If you are taking a hard shot at a subject, also say what the subject has done well.

Have off-site meetings with community groups. They will give new perspectives.
Personal/Work Balance
Don't define yourself solely by your job. The job can be taken away.

These leadership tips are a great discussion starter for an edi¬tors' training/re-training, retreat, orientation or meeting.
These tips, excerpted by Dave Waddell from Shelby Coffey's "Best Practices: The Art of Leadership in News Organizations," are guidelines for building/training you and your management staff.

Decision Making

An effective manager combines or manipulates multiple strategies for decision-making based upon his or her style, the quality of information and resources available and the circumstances for which the decision is needed. Here are three strategies that symbolize the two extreme decision¬ making strategies and the middle-ground.

Command Decisions - "Because I said so…"
This process is highly autonomous. In making decisions, a manager will collect information - issues, stakeholders, potential outcomes and risks/benefits-and arrive at a decision without extensive consultation with other team members.

Speed of execution
You may be the only person with the vantage point to impartially consider all issues

Live or die by your decision
Less "buy-in" by team members who must implement your decisions and who may be impacted

Collaborative Decisions - "After listening to your ideas, I think it is best we…"
Collaborative decisions are effective in team and project environments. A single person is responsible for making the "final" decision but arrives at his/her decision by collecting information and team member opinions. Usually, substantive discussions are used to flesh out risks, benefits and alternatives. Often, these discussions occur in several iterations.

Fairly high "buy-in" of final decision by most team members
Better understanding of issues by those who will likely implement the decision
Highly defensible decision, as opinions and alternatives were exhausted

Lengthier process than command decisions
May be overkill for less strategic or simple issues
Once consulted, team members may be unhappy if their opinions are not in the final decision

Consensus Decisions - "So we've all decided we'll…"
This is democracy at its best and worst. A consensus decision is one in which everyone not only offers input and opinion but also participates in the final decision, either formally or by poll, or tacitly by not objecting or offering alternatives.

Very high buy-in factor with distributed responsibility
All team members feel empowered
Decisions are often compromises

Usually the longest decision-making process
Decisions are often compromises, which can result in strange outcomes

Source: Regina

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