When Steve Rivers came to work for me at a high-tech start-up, he told me that one reason he did not take the job as head of programming for Clear Channel when his company AMFM was merged was that he did not want to deal with the spot loads the company was running. He said that if Clear Channel did something, such as increase inventory, AMFM would follow suit, because Wall Street expected it.

Two years ago, when John Hogan took the Clear Channel helm, I told him that he had an awesome responsibility: Not only did he have the company’s future in his hands, he also held the future of radio. As everyone watches and stock analysts track the industry’s largest company, he should assume that his actions and practices would be adopted industry-wide.

Radio is often an industry of copycats. A successful format is copied everywhere. If a major company increases spot loads, everyone else thinks they should do the same. Leadership, therefore, becomes an important responsibility when our industry leaders’ actions usually become industry-wide standards.

I applaud Clear Channel for taking the lead to reduce spot loads and sell premium positions. If they can pull it off across the chain, it will have a positive impact on our industry, though it will require a great deal of training and discipline at the station level. This could be a brilliant PR ruse, or it could be the real thing. Will the industry follow? Let’s hope so.

Leadership is happening in many places. David Field of Entercom has become a brilliant visionary and has gathered other group heads to address our industry issues. Field, Joel Hollander of Infinity, and John Hogan have been pushing the Radio Advertising Bureau toward building radio in the eyes of advertisers. Field also took action by creating and airing radio spots informing listeners of satellite radio downsides. David Kennedy of Susquehanna and Jeff Smulyan of Emmis led by example in creating people-friendly cultures and making their companies desired places to work in radio.

Nothing happens until someone takes a step. Everyone can take a leadership role. You don’t have to be a group head, station owner or GM; you can be a salesperson, an air talent or any other position in the industry. Leadership in your local area can manifest itself industry-wide. For example, you may be a sales rep who sees an area needing change, and you may develop and implement an idea that results in great success. Your station gets attention, your group adopts the idea, and the industry copies it.

Don’t expect someone else to see your vision or take the leadership role, and don’t be discouraged by nay-sayers. Stop complaining, and take action on your own. Leaders must endure criticism and often do not receive recognition, yet your idea can change the industry or even the world. Take action now. We need more great leaders in our industry, and there is a leadership role with your name on it.

8/09/04 Radio Ink Magazine. By B. Eric Rhoads