Fox News chief executive officer Suzanne Scott spoke with Adweek editor and svp of programming Lisa Granatstein for the latest issue of Adweek about her role as leader of one of America’s most powerful media companies, and provides practical, thoughtful advice on becoming the boss “you want (and don’t) want to be,” why collaboration is such an effective leadership tool and the one woman who has been her inspiration from day one.
Scott, who has been in the office each and every day throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, took a 50% pay cut to help stave off workforce reductions.
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Scott: 2020 took off like a rocket. We were ready for it to be an extremely busy year given the presidential election, but in January the Senate impeachment hearings consumed most of the month. Then came February 2020. My mom passed away on February 16 after six weeks in hospice. I returned to work soon thereafter, and in late February my focus immediately turned to the coronavirus pandemic. My first priorities were both ensuring the health and safety of our employees and providing a public service to our viewers with informative coverage around the clock. Within a week of the onset of the crisis, we set up more than 40 remote studios, quickly added more informative programming and hired additional medical experts.
What advice can you share?
Learn from everyone throughout your career. I have learned from both bosses and staff who were outstanding, and from those whom I would never emulate. I have also learned the very kind of leader I don’t want to be from experiences with various superiors. When I was a producer, I once had a boss who was very dictatorial and wouldn’t take great ideas from the production assistants or associate producers. I believe everyone can make a contribution and that approach fosters creativity and collaboration. Being a collaborator is the most effective tool in my arsenal. I make it a point to speak to everyone and get a diverse point of view so that I can make the most informed decisions about everything affecting our business. Some leaders are threatened by people with great ideas—I’m not one of those leaders. Instead, I always embrace smart ideas and apply them if I believe they will help grow and drive an initiative or business.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, and money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
The joke in my family is I aspire to be a beach badge checker at the Jersey Shore. I love people and the sun and how wonderful it would be to embrace the simplicity of making sure everyone has a beach badge (and that I have enough sunscreen on!). But truth be told, I cannot imagine doing anything else. Both of my parents had an incredible work ethic which many in my family have inherited. Neither of my parents ever retired. Working long, hard hours comes easy to me. In fact, I believe my work ethic has served me well throughout my life.
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
I would have kept a journal. Not just of my personal experiences and learnings, but including stories, images and changing technologies we were all managing through. These years have been extraordinary. … From pagers to smartphones and from 9/11 to Covid-19. All while starting here in my 20s as a single woman to getting married in my 30s, having my daughter at 40 and in my early 50s having lost both my parents and a beloved brother. Life, I’ve learned, often brings you great joy and great tragedy at the same time. It would be fascinating for me to have a simple timeline and record of all of that.