Joanne Lipman had just become an editor at The Wall Street Journal when she received some leadership advice that’s stuck with her ever since.
The now-editor-in-chief of USA Today, a newspaper with a daily reach of 110 million readers across print and digital, had previously worked as a reporter and an advertising columnist at the Journal.
After getting promoted, she worked on editor John Brecher’s Page One team. The choice of which stories ran on the front page was rarely an easy one — front page editors must decide which stories are the most newsworthy and important to readers.
During her early days as an editor, Lipman once asked Brecher why he chose to feature one particular story over another. She said her editor took the opportunity to share some advice.
“John’s advice was very simple,” Lipman told Business Insider. “It was, ‘Make a decision.’ He said, ‘What you need to understand is that the single most important thing you can do as a leader is make a call.'”
Lipman said that Brecher’s point was that not every choice a leader makes is going to be perfect.
But coming to and sticking with a decision is better than flip-flopping or shirking responsibility entirely.
She said that she continues to apply this advice today.
“The most important thing to do is to make that decision so that people understand where you’re going so that they have clarity,” she said. “What you don’t want is a leader who never makes any decisions, who’s changing their mind all the time. You can’t follow a person like that.”
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