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Relating Taran Swan

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In order to be an effective leader, one must be able to communicate effectively, verbally, and oftentimes, non-verbally. “Relating” refers to one’s ability to find common ground with subordinates and peers, and to those inside and outside of the organization. When determining the direction of Nickelodeon in Latin America, Taran Swan could not rely on a simplistic or pre-defined strategy to capture market share. Exporting an American channel to Latin America would require a keen understanding of the region, and a team capable of finding unique solutions to culture-specific issues. In order to find and recruit an effective team, she would have to be a relatable leader; one that could communicate effectively and be visible for the entirety of such a complex project.

Swan understood that programming would be the “heart and soul of the channel” and recruited Stephen Grieder to lead programming and creative direction (Hill & Doughty, 6). Swan considered him to be the best in the business and determined that the project needed him. In her efforts, she didn’t merely lay out role expectations and project specifics. Swan did make her pitch during the initial discussion, but also kept an open ear. She listened to his thoughts and concerns, offering him full executive responsibilities and authority, and pay that would be higher than hers if that’s what his requirement was. Her infectious enthusiasm for the project, and her willingness to share such great responsibilities, inspired his full confidence. Grieder stated that he was also quite impressed that she was so attentive to his inputs. According to Ancona, the leader should be able to suspend judgment and listen without imposition (Ancona, 2). Grieder also noted that while her self-assurance was impressive, she remained very visible and committed to the goal of launch (Hill & Doughty, 7). Everything that Swan did was with the end-state in mind. She was a strong advocate of the mission. Advocacy, according to Ancona, is another critical component of relating. Swan was a very competent executive who was able to successfully utilize all pillars of the Ancona model, but her relatability set conditions for her team to rally behind her vision.

Ancona, D. MIT Leadership Center [Editorial]. Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty. Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://web.mit.edu/wg/business/FY2007/LeadAgeUncert.pdf

Hill, Linda A., and Kristin Doughty. "Taran Swan at Nickelodeon Latin America (A)." Harvard Business School Case 400-036, August 1999. (Revised June 2008.)

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