This Is What Leadership Looks Like

In addition to all of my coaching and consulting, I have the pleasure to teach classes for the Marquette University School of Communications in Milwaukee.  Frankly, I am so impressed by the caliber of my students.  Even though they have yet to enter the workplace, I can tell that many of them have the makings of terrific leaders.

One of my students is Aimee Galaszewski.  Earlier this month she was recognized by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association with its Student Leadership Award.  The award is given to a university student who has most noticeably developed and exercised effective and creative skills in leadership. In addition to her studies, Aimee is executive director of the Marquette Wire overseeing the student newspaper, magazine, television station, radio station, and advertising department.

Aimee has given me permission to share the essay she submitted to the WBA.  When you read it, you will feel good about the next generation of leaders.

(BTW, Aimee is a senior in case any of my broadcasting readers are interested in hiring a great person.  She is interested in sports communications).

Here is her essay:

The clock was ticking; we were one hour away from our first live newscast of 2021. When I heard the frustration and nervousness in the voices of our production team, I knew something was wrong.

“Everything is broken,” the Production Director shared. The video playback system was unresponsive, the teleprompter was down, the IFB’s weren’t working, and we had new first-year student anchors who were terrified to proceed.

As I looked around the control room, I was faced with silence and hopeless glances. It felt like a giant weight was crushing my chest, but I couldn’t let others see that. In this moment, I knew that I needed to be a calm and optimistic leader.

“We’re canceling the show,” the Production Director said.

This initial demand caught me off guard. I hold Marquette University Television to the highest regard of professionalism, and canceling a show isn’t a real-world option. If our newscast is at 7:30, we are going live at 7:30 no matter what.

“Absolutely not,” I responded politely. “We have one hour to troubleshoot these problems, so let’s get it done.”

Our production director responded with an eye roll and resounding sigh, but I wasn’t going to let anyone take the easy way out. I knew we could overcome these hurdles. The next hour was filled with chaos, but slowly, each piece was coming together. With our creative thinking, we were able to get the video playback system up and running. However, it was 7:28 p.m. and everyone was distraught that the teleprompter was still down.

“It’ll be okay, just use the printed scripts,” I said.

As the Production Director counted down from 10 at the top of the show, I oddly wasn’t nervous. Rather, I was elated. We did it. And no matter how the show would turn out, everyone gained a real-world experience. The control room atmosphere pulsed with spirit; it was a time when we celebrated our resilience and teamwork.

Even the Production Director, who wanted to take the easy way out, thanked me for pushing her.

This is the moment when I knew my leadership could have a positive impact on others. I suddenly felt more confident in my decision-making, and I knew I could handle any obstacle that came my way.

But I didn’t want to stop there with MUTV. I knew my leadership could transform an entire organization.

While I have aspirations to pursue a career in sports producing, there was a calling for me to step into the role of Executive Director at the Marquette Wire. A sense of reluctancy filled me, as this decision strayed away from the path I’ve wanted to pursue since I was 11-years-old. But in this new position, I knew I would be able to do what I love most: supporting, mentoring and pushing others to be the best they can be. Student media has given so much to me throughout my four years at Marquette, and I wanted to inspire the next group of students through my leadership.

Applying for Executive Director turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Each day is a new adventure, challenge and blessing.

Whenever a new reporter strolls into my office, I exude positivity, energy and kindness. During our weekly all-staff meetings, I recognize the great work of everyone on our team, ensuring that no one feels left out. When I walk into the newsroom, I address each of our 150 staff members by name and have genuine conversations. As I review content, I ask our staff members ethical questions and push them to think more critically. When I address conflict, I’m strategic, fair and thoughtful. During the days when I’m drowning in work, I’ll stop what I’m doing to listen to others and offer guidance, even if it’s not Wire-related.

But to me, all that pales in comparison to the progress we’ve made on one of my biggest goals: improving diversity and inclusion across all branches of the Marquette Wire. Last spring, we created a new Editor of Diversity and Inclusion position with the help of Keith Woods, Chief Diversity Officer at NPR. I recruited and hired the perfect student for the job; never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see such an immediate and powerful impact.

In just one semester, I’ve seen a drastic increase in the diversity of sources, photos and stories in the Marquette Tribune. Our entertainment team produced MUTV’s first-ever television package in Spanish with English subtitles. Our staff members have become more curious, frequently asking questions about how to make content more diverse and inclusive. The need for inclusivity has even translated to our own staff, as everyone treats each other with respect and kindness.

Each week when I meet with our EDI, we have honest conversations about how our organization can improve. I challenge our staff to speak with sources that don’t look like them and find story ideas outside of their comfort zones. Whenever I upload an application to our website, I send a notice to every multicultural student organization on Marquette’s campus, because I am committed to finding talented and diverse individuals to join our staff. I hold myself and others accountable in achieving our goals regarding diversity and inclusion, and if we fall short, we have difficult discussions. We have taken major strides in this area since I’ve joined the Marquette Wire, and we are now at the forefront of student media organizations nationwide. I acknowledge our progress, but I am far from feeling satisfied.

My experiences in student media have taught me a great lesson: leaders should never be satisfied. I’m always striving to improve and I encourage my team to do the same, which has helped to reshape the culture of the Marquette Wire. I am proud to say that my leadership has cultivated an organization filled with extraordinary students, who are committed to a culture of excellence, kindness, collaboration, diversity and inclusion, working in a family-like atmosphere.

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