How Do We Shape Future Media Leaders?
Where will our industry’s future leadership come from? How will we find them? Shape them? Enable ourselves to be shaped by them? These are questions that I know many of us think about.
The advertising, marketing and media industry is fortunate to have so many great trade organizations and lots of stand-alone charitable foundations focused on attracting, retaining, retraining and mentoring present and future talent. Like many of you, I’m part of an industry foundation dedicated to shaping future media leaders, and was part of several discussions this week of how the mission of shaping our future leaders is changing. I would like to discuss some of these issues --and, hopefully, get some of your feedback and create some conversations about these important issues.
The media landscape is changing before our eyes. You don’t have to read Henry Blodget’s piece on Business Insider about the “imminent collapse of television” to know that our industry is transforming fast, as technology and changes in consumer behavior disrupt incumbent media companies -- newspapers, magazines, TV and radio broadcasters -- and create opportunities for new companies to have their moment in the sun: Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, etc.
Emerging media companies, and their employees, are quite different from incumbents. It is impossible to overstate how different the emerging “new” media companies are from their predecessors, even if the majority of their revenue also comes from advertising. Google, Yahoo, and Facebook don’t even permit themselves to be called “media” companies. Engineers, scientists and tech-centric product managers set the agenda at emerging companies, talking more of “tolerating” business executives than celebrating them.
This changing landscape and the radically different kinds of companies dominating digital media create interesting tensions that we must consider when we think about the future of our industry. Even if the emerging companies only capture one-third of media and advertising expenditures, they will hold extraordinary sway over the industry. Try to imagine for a moment how their leaders will be different than those who lead our large media companies today. You can bet they will be:
Younger. The leaders of many digital media companies are at least 15 to 20 years younger than their incumbent peers. I doubt that will change.
More diverse. Most media companies today are led primarily by white males. Given the racial and gender diversity of top students in universities today (and the globalization of new media), it’s hard to imagine we won’t have a more diverse group leading our future media companies.
Tech-savvy. For every John Malone, a Bell Labs scientist and engineer, our media industry has had a hundred top executives who needed someone else to print out their emails though most of the ‘90s and ‘00s. Folks like that will find it virtually impossible to stay on top much longer.
Impatient. In a world being redefined by start-ups and flat organizational cultures, many of the youngest folks entering our industry today have no time or patience for a long, escalator-like ride over decades to reach leadership. They know what they want and they want it now. They will take it.
Multi-skilled. Many of us were “bucketed” into roles and silos at early stages of our careers and have found success through focus and unique expertise. Invariably, some of the strongest talents in emerging companies have degrees that span both science and arts, work better horizontally than vertically, and take pride in constantly changing gears in their careers.
Global. I didn’t have a passport until I was 32 (fortunately, you could go to Cancun and Montreal with only a driver’s license in those days). The folks joining digital companies today visited Burma, Brazil and Beijing before they graduated from high school. Their default perspective will be global.
Are we ready to work with -- and for -- these folks? I believe that most of our incumbent companies, leaders and human resource approaches are not yet ready to recruit, train and retain these folks at the levels we should. I believe that we are even less equipped to turn over the keys to our kingdoms to them -- which they will demand and deserve long before we recognize, I suspect.
How are we going to shape future media leaders? Please use the comments below to give us your thoughts.