A few years ago, a management professor I had met in Los Angeles was visiting New York and dropped by the office for coffee. “How are you?” he asked. “Not great,” I confided. “I think I’m a terrible manager.”
Just that morning, in our newsroom’s main Slack channel, I had sketched out a plan for covering a big breaking news story. A young reporter involved in the plan pushed back on a key piece of it, in a reply that everyone in the Slack channel could see. I considered her reasoning but found it faulty, and messaged her and her direct supervisor explaining why. We pressed on with my plan, which turned out to be the right call.
I had won the argument and proved my point, but I still felt lousy, and not because I had overruled someone (I was confident enough to feel no guilt about that). What was bothering me was that I couldn’t imagine ever openly questioning a ranking editor’s request like that when I was a young reporter. And so I deduced that if I was being questioned in that way, then I must have been doing an awful job of carrying myself with any authority.