13th Jun 2013

Ex Times editor prepares for First 100 Days at the BBC

James Harding began his career in 1994 at the Financial Times – he opened the paper’s bureau in Shanghai and later became bureau chief in Washington. Harding then joined the Times as business editor, and in 2007 he became the youngest ever editor of the broadsheet at the age of 38. In December 2012, Harding unexpectedly retired from the position. Speculation suggested that his retirement was prompted by Rupert Murdoch’s objections to the Times’ coverage of the News International phone-hacking scandal.

In April, as his first key appointment as BBC director general, Tony Hall announced James Harding’s appointment as the BBC’s new director of news and current affairs. Hall noted Harding’s “impressive track record as a journalist, editor and leader.” After a challenging year for the BBC newsroom, Harding brings hope, experience and an outside perspective.

When he takes up his new position Harding will have responsibility for a workforce of 8,000, and he will oversee the running of shows such as Today, Newsnight, Question Time and Panorama. While Harding is due to formally take up the role on 12 August, he is currently spending time with his new teams in preparation. Harding is in a great position right now, with the time and space to familiarise himself with his new role and thus to prepare for a clean transition into it.

For any new leader the ability to build and lead a high performing team is a key leadership skill. Harding’s team will provide the opportunity for him to multiply and maximise his leadership effectiveness, and so a strong, healthy team will be a crucial factor in his success.

So, Harding needs to understand the strategic context within which his team is trying to operate and succeed. He needs to figure out the company vision and strategy, the market dynamics and the strategic timelines. No leader can lead their team in a vacuum, they need to be connected to the bigger picture.

With this greater understanding of the strategic context Harding will be able to figure out what the team mission needs to be. Then he can create a clear line of sight between what he’s being asked to do and what the BBC is trying to achieve, and by when. By August, with a detailed first 100 days plan which outlines the strategic context and the team mission, Harding should be fully prepared to lead his new team through a successful first 100 days as BBC director of news and current affairs.

Hilda Goold

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