What's the worst chief executive job this side of AIG?
It would have to be the guy in charge of Freddie Mac. As you may recall, they took tons of federal aid and were roundly blamed for facilitating the housing crisis, not to mention losing $26 billion last year.
So how does Charles Haldeman Jr. do it? How has he raised staff confidence in senior management from 42% in early 2009 to 70% at the end of the year?
Haldeman has a novel approach - aside from the cost-cutting, streamlining, and credit profile improving, he is transparent, present, and he listens.
Over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to watch a number of radio's CEOs navigate the tough economic waters. Some of them do market tours and meet the staffs for strategic meetings and brainstorms. Some just show up to rally the troops. Some of them paint the picture that depicts what winning is all about in 2010 and beyond, and how their people can make a difference and grow.
Others avoid markets, stations, and employees. Or do little to provide transparent, coherent, honest leadership. Or don't feel that education or staff development figures into their missions.
The Telecommunications Act of '96 has created lots of consequences - both intended and otherwise.
It's too bad that in some cases it has created little "Pottervilles" in markets where one company has been able to dominate radio - ratings, revenue, and just about everything else. If there's any good news here, it's that most employees have a pretty good idea of who's running the show. The last couple of years have removed most of the veneer.
On the eve of one of the Presidential elections a few years back, I was handicapping the race with a GM we worked with. As he told me, "We will get the leadership we deserve."
This is the time. As Haldeman has done with Freddie Mac - turning around an operation that had failure written all over it - great leadership has the ability to inspire and motivate. The last couple years have been brutal for radio, but presence, transparency, and listening skills are all part of the executive package that can keep the industry vital as it turns a major corner.
As the economy recovers, we're going to learn a great deal about who is building brands, human and professional equity, and a strong future. And who's just cashing out.