Absence of Leadership

The world of social media is fraught with danger, both for the media, for brands and the public more generally.

Last week, a Wollongong man found himself in trouble after making abusive comments about police officers on Twitter. And we saw the results of ‘social media going bad’ when Qantas launched their ill-advised Twitter marketing campaign a few weeks ago.

Eriks Celmins will be commenting in more detail on social media strategy for radio soon on Radio Today.

Recently, there was an example of social media exposing the failings of one radio station, more specifically of one Program Director, in the United States. Whilst the incident occurred via social media, this article has less to do with that, and more to do with leadership, or rather the lack of it.

Here is what happened:

In January, an American talk radio host, Angel Clark, had her weekend shows on WGMD in Rehoboth, Delaware axed. Nothing unusual about that, it happens regularly. What is unusual is that her Program Director, Dan Gaffney, fired her via a message on Facebook:

And he had prior form. A few months earlier he had moved her from weekdays to weekends and let her know via Facebook:

Unsurprisingly, Clark was upset about this, in particular the method of communicating what was a significant piece of news. She wrote about it at her blog: sussexcountyangel, Clarks position can be summarised from this excerpt:

‘Programming can be tricky and of course, everyone has the right to pick and choose who they like for their station. My problem is the manner in which this news was given to me’

Given her programmer has done this at least twice, he has a pattern of behaviour. Worse, he appears have had a lack of self-awareness of the inappropriateness of his actions. Gaffney made this comment on US radio site allaccess.com:

‘Cancelling a host’s show in this way is certainly not standard practice, but in the case of this particular host it was her preferred method of business communication. We wish her well’

Facebook may have been her preferred method of communication, but that doesn’t excuse Gaffney using it for news like this. 

It may well have been the right decision for the station to fire Clark. And as PD, Gaffney certainly had the right to make that decision, but to do so over Facebook, rather than in person, was entirely inappropriate. It showed a lack of courage, a lack of moral fibre and an absence of leadership.

Firing people is an unpleasant, but necessary part of being in management. When you accept the salary that goes with a management role you equally accept the responsibility that comes with it.

This means when someone needs to be fired, it should be done with as much respect and dignity for the person as possible. And that means having the courage and the moral fibre to do so in person, or if physically impossible due to distance, then through a personal phone call.

Courage and moral fibre are attributes that this US Program Director clearly lacks.

And without those attributes, you are not a leader.


Dan Bradley is Executive Director of Kaizen Media; an international media, management and marketing company.

You can contact Dan here.


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