Leadership in a time of change

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JOMC 552.01

JOMC 752.01


Fall 2014

Thursdays, 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Room 268

Instructor: Professor Penny Muse Abernathy, 397 Carroll Hall


Cell: 914-523-9142


Office Hours: 9:30 to noon, Tuesday and Thursday, and by appointment
Research Associate: Paula Seligson, 396 Carroll Hall


Cell: 919-744-9190


Office Hours: By appointment Monday through Friday
Course Description: During a time of fast-paced innovation and “creative destruction” in the media industry, Leadership in a Time of Change examines in depth the critical strategic choices facing executives in both start-up and established news and technology companies.
This course introduces applied concepts in strategic decision-making, organizational behavior and operational management. Through weekly readings and discussion of recent scholarly and professional research, students will gain an appreciation for both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of leadership.
An essential component of this course is hands-on field work funded by both the McCormick and Knight Foundations. For the past ten semesters, almost 200 students in this course have worked with more than a dozen community newspapers throughout the country, helping them develop new business models for the 21st century. This effort became the basis of a book published in the spring of 2014 by UNC Press, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability, and the instructional website, www.savingcommunityjournalism.com.
Students taking the course this fall will have the opportunity to continue this work, or work on two other related projects. Details of the three projects will be distributed in the first class (August 21). Team assignments, which will be made during the second class, will be based on your interests and skills. These projects are very different from the semester-long projects that you typically encounter in other upper-level courses at either the journalism or business schools. Since most of these projects span several semesters, your team will be expected to pick up where the last group left off and then work toward “ passing the baton” to students in the following semester’s class. This passing of a project from one department or team to another is typical of the work flow in most organizations, whether for-profit or nonprofit, start-up or mature. Therefore, these projects will give you an opportunity to develop a different set of management skills than other class projects you may have participated in. The field work may involve any or all of the following: conducting research, recommending strategies, and working side-by-side with the client to implement change. Your team will be expected to deal directly with the client throughout the semester.
This in-field consulting project will offer you the opportunity to evaluate your own style of management and leadership and compare it with the styles of others who are leading a change process or business transformation. In addition to gaining a better understanding of the challenges facing companies during a period of immense disruption, you should gain valuable insights into the critical leadership skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.
Recent research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that high performing leaders say that they “learned” how to be a leader by having challenging assignments, receiving coaching and mentoring, and by taking formal leadership courses. All three elements are necessary if individuals were to move from merely being a “top performer” in an organization to being a “high-performing leader.” Therefore, this course attempts to incorporate all three elements into the experience you will have as a student this semester.
You will have numerous opportunities to lead and excel at producing a final project for a “real” client. I will serve as a coach – as will your classmates. And you will have ample opportunity to discuss and apply the required readings.

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