An article in Monday’s New York Times evaluated James Murdoch’s leadership style and the challenges facing News Corporation. ( Murdoch is widely assumed to be the heir apparent at the company, following in the formidable footsteps of his iconic father. Comparisons are inevitable.

“James Murdoch is trying to succeed at the company his father built, but he is a very different character,” the Times reported. “More blunt, more bureaucratic and less able to smooth ruffled feathers. He has his father’s aggressiveness, but not his tactical sense or temperance.”

It was a timely piece, coming just as the Arthur W. Page Society launched the first session of our new Future Leaders cohort, focusing on the theme of leadership. One of the articles we referenced in the session was from the Harvard Business Reviewin 2007, titled “Discovering your Authentic Leadership.”

“No one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else,” the HBR piece reads. “You can learn from others’ experiences, but there is no way you can be successful when you are trying to be like them.” I suspect the authors would argue that Murdoch the Younger would find more success in learning to flex his own style than in trying to emulate that of his father.

The Future Leaders cohort is examining the question of leadership within organizations as complex and highly pressurized as News Corp. Murdoch is not alone in his quest to assert his own style against significant operational headwinds, and the legacy of a charismatic predecessor.

This is a dynamic that Page members are very familiar with; the communications function is uniquely positioned to participate in the dynamics and activities that forge leadership reputations across the C-suite. A trusted advisor in the top communications role has often been a powerful actor in the way that corporate leaders emerge.

Page’s new Future Leaders cohort explored the attributes of authentic and effective leadership in the top communications role, which each of them is primed to assume. I was deeply impressed by their insights, and I’m confident that many CEOs will benefit from their counsel.

Maril MacDonald
Gagen MacDonald