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Letter to Leaders

Howard Stern A Great Boss? It’s True!

An example of that is Howard Stern. Yes, that Howard Stern: the controversial radio show host. No matter what you might think of Stern’s shtick (and I for one am a fan), there’s no denying the fact that he’s a great boss, by the benchmark established above.

  1. Robin Quivers, his on-air castmate, has worked with Stern for 1981 and followed him through three radio stations, two cities and now to Sirius Satellite Radio.

  2. Fred Norris, Stern’s writer and sound effects expert, has been with him since 1979.

  3. The Stern Show producer and majordomo, Gary Dell’Abate, has worked for Stern since 1984.

  4. Even Stern’s engineer, Scott Salem, has worked for Stern for 15 years.

Despite the inevitable moments of pique or petty fighting, the fact that these (and more) people have stayed with Stern for this period of time shows they like working for and with him.

Your employees don’t have to like you, but they have to like working for you.

It would be easy to say that these individuals are only staying with Stern because of the lucrative compensation they receive, or the notoriety and level of fame associated with the show.

But there’s more to it than that. If an employee is truly unhappy with their boss, they’re going to eventually leave. All of Stern’s employees have had those chances – through station changes or the move to satellite radio. But they stayed, and the reason is they love their jobs. Study after study shows that happiness in the workplace is the number one reason people stay with their job.

And as the years pass, professional relationships inevitably evolve. You become used to each other’s idiosyncrasies and are able to adapt (or, get used to) the quirks of your co-workers.

In Stern’s case, his well known quirks (a penchant for timeliness, low tolerance for fools, and his fastidiousness) were once a sore spot for his co-workers. But they’ve learned how to tolerate them and indeed embrace them. Whereas 15 years ago, Fred Norris would be subjected to teasing from Howard and threaten to leave the show; today the same teasing merely evokes genuine laughter.

Of course there’s another reason for Stern’s success as a leader, and it’s a strategy that any great leader must adopt: Stern is intensely loyal to his employees. He is loathe to fire anyone, almost to a fault. And loyalty from a boss is repaid by loyalty to a boss. His people are equally loyal to him.

So – despite the antics, the strippers and the crassness – Howard Stern has built a hugely successful empire not just because of his talent, but also by his success as a leader.


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