3: Leader/Follower Relationships — non-formal leaders’ influence, trust levels, work structure

Based on my experience with Frontline, the leader/follower relationships appear to be one of the organization’s greatest strengths. Even as an intern, and just a few weeks into my internship, I have been able to voice my thoughts and have often been specifically asked my thoughts on projects. Regardless of whether a person has a ‘formal’ leadership role, everyone who works at Frontline, based on what I’ve observed, has influence on others in the organization and how the organization operates (i.e. what stories they pursue, how they decide to format such stories, every edit down to exactly how many seconds a clip should be shown is carefully thought through and debated). A specific example of how I have had influence on others in the organization, even though I am just an intern, would be a story proposal that I assessed and fact-checked. I was tasked with reviewing a story proposal submission from an outside filmmaker and creating a short brief with what I thought was the most important information as well as any concerns or red flags I had about the content of the proposal, the subjects in the story and the filmmaker. The brief I wrote was then circulated to all involved with story submissions in the organization, mainly the top editorial staff and managing editor, and my brief was the document they based their assessments of the pitch on, rather than reading through the extensive pitch from the filmmaker. I was not only trusted to collect and fact-check the necessary information but also to share my thoughts on the proposal. Therefore, I was given the opportunity to influence others in the organization and also the type of content that Frontline produces. 

The relationship and trust levels between leaders and members of Frontline are rooted in the idea that everyone’s thoughts and critiques are valuable and needed. There is a great level of trust throughout the organization because of the mutual respect between colleagues. This is not to say that there is not a hierarchy in the sense that everyone has a certain role and a particular job to do, however everyone is able and encouraged to provide feedback on all content, even if they are not tasked to directly work on it. An example of the high-level of trust among ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’ would be that I have been chosen and trusted to work on several confidential projects. (I say leaders and followers in quotations because these roles often switch depending on the project. Also, people regard each other as peers regardless of formal rank.)  The fact that I am put on confidential projects in itself is a testament to the trust levels between leaders and members of the organization, and the fact that the leaders of the projects I am put on value my thoughts on the work, which they obviously have more experience doing, is a testament to the respectful relationship between all employees, regardless of rank. 

I cannot speak to how work was structured at Frontline pre-COVID, however while working virtually, work has been structured both by departments and then broken down further by specific teams depending on who’s working on what project. This has allowed me to interact (virtually) with the entire Frontline staff in all-staff meeting, more closely with the editorial department in our department meetings, and then even more closely with the other individuals involved with a given project I am assigned to (such as a specific story or a particular step in the editing process). If I was interning on-site, I would likely interact with more people each day through simply passing them in the hallways, having casual conversations or eating lunch together. It is unfortunate that this is not the case, however I am grateful to be able to engage with everyone in larger meetings but get to know certain people better through specific projects with smaller groups.