Who’s the Boss: Channeling Walter Cronkite

Some thoughts in preparation for a panel presentation — a company-wide Career Development Symposium at American Airlines HQ.  It was an honor to be invited.  Lots of changes at AMR since this blogpost…but the discussion points are timeless.

What are the pivotal factors that influence one’s trajectory? Hmmm. Let’s start with hiring the right boss. This can make or break your career. And yes, there are numerous strategic occasions when you DO get to select whom you report to in the hierarchy:

  • When you are pondering a career move/change.
  • When you want to re-direct your path inside your current company.
  • When you are interviewing for a position at a new company.
  • When there is a Change-in-Control or a re-org and you are having to start all over by vying for and winning a new slot.
  • When there is someone you admire and would give the world to shadow and serve.

To that point, there is a wonderful account in New York Social Diary of how interviewer and webcaster Carol Joynt reached out to industry legend Walter Cronkite at the height of his powerhouse career as “most trusted man in America” when she was a newbie wire service reporter.

She ended up on his team of writers at CBS News, which catapulted her into the highest galaxy of media and political influencers, subsequently working with other luminaries, including Charlie Rose, Larry King, etc.

It is a lengthy piece, but worth the read. Learn from Carol’s strategy and style: Take a shot, craft a communique, capitalize on a coming event, follow-up, engage a dialog. She knew how to be worthy of someone’s attention and in return she gained a mentor and friend of a lifetime. Very inspiring!

What makes a great boss?

  • Smart, savvy leader
  • Interested in you and your talents, capabilities, goals
  • Well-regarded outside the company; well-connected inside
  • Someone who will teach, share, delegate, showcase and let you stretch
  • A good fit with your strengths, personal brand, workstyle
  • Spawns leaders in positions throughout the company
  • Willing to let you fly out of the nest when you are ready for a promotion.

Candidates who are considering multiple opportunities should carefully vet and consider the person to whom they would report, as well as the overall team they would be joining. It’s not just the company or the role, it’s a matter of alignment and allegiance. Simpatico and synergy. Think of the career path of those attached to Jack Welch’s brand at GE. It makes a difference.

What comprises The Perfect Fit? For those fortunate enough to join the CBS cadre in that heyday of network news, Cronkite had it in spades.

A friend gave an account of a trip to New York.  She arrived by train from Boston and tried to cab it to the hotel from Penn Station. There was a traffic jam of mammoth proportion. ”Every limo in town was rented!” Was the President in town, she mused? No. It was the day of Walter Cronkite’s funeral. R.I.P.

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene