This week, I attended the Aspen Ideas Festival. I thought it was a great event. The discussions were very rich. I was surprised, however, that at least one third of the seminars were about “The Future of Media and Fake News.” This is a bit much. Yes, there is a problem with the rise of “fake news,” but criticism of news and media has gone too far.
A little context. I am a life-long Republican. I believe in many things the President is trying to do. As CEO of GE, I was responsible for NBC, NBC News and MSNBC from 2001 through 2010. I have great respect for the team and enjoyed working with them. I also consider Brian Roberts, Bob Iger, Les Moonves, Jeff Bewkes to be world-class executives and friends.
It is time for these media leaders to defend their news organizations… to say publicly … that “I have your back.” That doesn’t mean that journalists are perfect; it doesn’t mean that your organization will not make mistakes. You must be your own worst critic. But what it would imply is that you are responsible to lead your team. Leaders need to take some of the criticism at their level and free their teams to do their work. If the leaders don’t defend their teams, it becomes “open season” on them. You must support them and do it now.
We have had to take similar strides to support GE teams around the world. We have thousands of Mexicans and Muslims who work at GE. They are important to our company. We defend their right to do good work; we “have their back.”
Managing criticism is a part of leadership. Now, more than ever, good leaders must take care of their teams and take the consequences.