On Christmas I received a very timely gift: Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.
Ever since I was a kid, at least some small part of me was fascinated by space. I had a map of the solar system on my bedroom wall in grade school — back when Pluto was still a planet — and several books about the sun and pretty much every other body orbiting it.
I liked to watch movies about space and astronauts. I liked to stare at pictures of the moon landing. Some small part of me fantasized about going to space, but as I grew into my teenage years I realized that was probably more dream than reality — in no small part because I’d need to learn how to fly.
Instead, I became involved in something equally hectic, but also firmly grounded: the news business.
Roughly ten years of school and a cross-country move later, here I am: a reporter for the Moose Jaw Times-Herald who — for the time being — is also wearing an editor’s cap, sitting in the managing editor’s seat on a temporary basis while my boss is on her vacation.
Leadership is not a new hat for me, but in this setting and on this scale it most certainly is.
And that’s why the Christmas gift was timely. At least some of the focus in Hadfield’s book is placed on how to be a successful, constructive and effective leader.
There’s always lessons to be learned, and two days into my new job, I’m learning one that Hadfield pointed out from his own experiences.
Being a leader is a firm lesson in humility, because a vast majority of the time, leading a team is less about personal glory and more about finding ways to let your people shine.
In Hadfield’s words, the first step toward doing anything right is being a “zero” — competent, but not overbearing enough to botch the job (people who do that are referred to as “negative ones”).
Once an individual has become comfortable enough, he can learn to become a “plus one” — a person who actively contributes in a positive way to the outcome of any particular task.
Being a managing editor — even in an acting capacity — is a dramatic shift from the life of a reporter, who sometimes has to establish that he or she is the best at what he or she does, and who by nature is bound to compete either with other news organizations or other reporters within his or her own.
I’d be lying if I said I’m making this transition easily. But I made three resolutions to myself for the new year: don’t smoke another cigarette (I’ve already failed), be fair and direct with everyone (I’m working on it), and lastly, put in my best effort in everything that I do — but not to the point of being afraid to admit I’m not the best person for a given job.
Leadership is exciting, but it’s also difficult. This is especially the case with a team as talented as the one currently operating in this newsroom. Running a team this dedicated to the craft and this capable at it is a bit like learning to fly.
But I know I have the skills to fulfill this role, and I made a promise to myself at the outset of Jan. 1 that I intend to keep.
While I’m at this desk I’ll do my best to make sure I’m worthy of the honour.
Anything less would be an insult to this publication’s storied history, the news team I am at the helm of, and the readers of the Times-Herald.
And I’m not in the business of insulting people.