America's Best Leaders: Q&A with Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News channel
I'm at my desk by 7:30 in the morning and I try to get home by 6:30 or 7 at night. But I often have phone calls in the evenings and weekends. It's not very productive if you put in more than 10 or 12 hours; I think you start to lose your edge. Weekends, I carry a bag of reading and read it wherever I am, but I also think you're good at this job if you do other things.
You seem to be deeply involved in every aspect of the operation.
Well, there aren't many parts of the business I haven't worked in. But here's the way it'll read if anything goes wrong: "Former Nixon aide Ailes completely screws up News Channel." If you're [in] my job, you know what it's going to read like in the press the next day, so you try to anticipate when it's going to end.
It all goes back to Nixon!
The press can't let go of it. Nobody ever writes the factsfour months, freelance, no input on politics, TV producer, chance to get out of Philadelphia and come to New York. That was the entirethat was my career with Nixon. But to read it in the New York Times, you'd think I was planning Watergate about five years before it happened.
What separates the excellent leaders from the merely competent?
There are different kinds of leaders. There are inspirational leaders, tactical leaders, strategic leaders. And sometimes the best have all of those elements in their personality and they know when to use them.
I've had the good fortune of working for two great ones. Jack Welch was one of the great corporate leaders at GE. He inspired you, he had a sense of mission. And he really focused my mind on something I knew, which was that winning is fun, but you have to love to win and hate to lose at the same time. Jack was a great corporate leader.
Rupert [Murdoch] is a great corporate leader, in a more entrepreneurial style, because he owns the company too. Jack is sort of a corporation guy, with that corporate structure. And Rupert is sort of a gut-instinct entrepreneur. They're two obviously great leaders, just based on their track records. If you'd invested in GE when Jack took over and sold when he left, you'd have done all right. Rupert's the same way. Takes over a small paper in Adelaide, Australia, and ends up media king of the world. That takes an awful lot of something that's not often ascribed to Rupert: talent. You have to have talent, to pick people, to pick businesses, to understand markets, to move from continent to continent and succeed wherever you go. There's a real talent, a gift in that.
The hardest part of leadership is eliminating normal fear. There's always a fear of failure and most of us are trained to avoid it. Everybody's mother told them to get a teaching degree so they'd have something to fall back on. My parents, like everybody in that era, they wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. But once I'd dug ditches and put in guardrail and sewer pipe, and didn't hate it, I already had something to fall back on. I never thought about it again, because I actually didn't hate that work, so I always thought 'Well, if all else fails, I can still do that'. And that gave me a great deal of confidence.