Frymire and New Jersey Public Television

Today in class, we discussed the importance of networking as a leader.  We examined the case study of New Jersey Public Television and its former executive director Lawrence Frymire.  Whether through his own faults or the difficult circumstances he was put under, Frymire was asked to resign from his position as executive director by Governor Brendan Byrne.  Frymire had originally been hired by Governor Richard Hughes, and despite achieving considerable results, was unable to gain favor with the Byrne administration and was soon asked to leave.  Had Frymire been able to secure a stronger network within the Byrne administration, he would have likely saved his job.  He instead butted heads with several people and was unable to satisfy Governor Byrne and the NJPTV Board of Commissioners.  Professor Grimm also discussed the “Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits” and how it would have behooved Frymire to adhere to them.  For example, if Frymire had been able to “inspire Evangelists” he would have had a network of people that would have fought to keep his job and stand by and support his decisions.  Or if he had “mastered the art of adaptation”, he could have quickly adapted to the new administration and gained favor with them.  I think as public leaders, we can all learn from the mistakes of Lawrence Frymire when it comes to networking.

 

-Luke M.

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6 Responses to Frymire and New Jersey Public Television

  1. Katie says:

    Maybe I was in the mood for anarchy when I read the case study, but my interpretation of Frymire’s faults and actions varied vastly from the analysis Professor Grimm gave in class. While I can see the importance of a manager who is adaptable, inspirational, and ready to appease, I think a much stronger indication of a leader is someone who knows the purpose of his organization and is willing to stick to that purpose, no matter who they may offend. To me this case portrayed a man who would not compromise the foundations of NJPTV just to please the new Governor and his cohorts. There was an obvious lack of communication between the Governor, the Board, and Frymire; as the Director of the organization, Frymire is as much to blame for this as the rest of the associated members. But I do not blame him for sticking to his guns and trying to express his point of view to the new administration. Government employees differ from corporate employees in that, by definition, they are “public servants,” meaning they are meant to serve the needs of the people, not the Governor.

    -Katie

  2. Ben Simon says:

    I believe that it wasn’t just networking that caused Frymire to lose his job. From what we can see, his overall charisma was lacking throughout the whole process. We learned a lot about soft power last year in our last PUAF class, and it is obvious that Frymire did not do an acceptable job of gaining the soft power that was necessary to make him an indispensable part of NJPTV. Maybe it was good that he was forced to go back to his job as a professor, so that he can just focus on results rather than power among his fellow employees.

  3. Prof. Grimm says:

    I don’t think leaders should be “ready to appease.” None of the six practices in the readings are about appeasing; instead they are suggestions for how to create greater impact for your group’s mission and I think valuable things to look for in the groups and leaders we might invest in with our funds. Indeed, I emphasized that a better way to deal with Adubato is not to appease him but to have networks and evangelists who strongly believe in your mission, your leadership, and can help neutralize troublesome and perhaps unreasonable individuals and forces. Frymire accomplished a number of things but we didn’t find anyone in the case that really bought into his leadership and felt highly connected to the mission of NJPTV. That is a major problem. Among the things he didn’t do, Frymire didn’t engage in advocacy for his mission (one of the reasons for the decline in NJPTV’s budget), cultivate evangelists (it isn’t saying much when you best supporter is Meade), or make markets work (there are lots of corporate sponsors of public television– for instance Chucky Cheese comes on before each Word Girl episode my five year old daughter watches on public television and as we saw with Ted Leonsis and SnagFilms one can “do well while doing good” – but Frymire claims private support and partnerships are basically impossible for NJPTV).

  4. Megan Sanquist says:

    I agree with Ben when he mentioned Frymire’s lack of charisma. Frymire was content with reaching the goals laid out by the commission but was never willing to go above and beyond for NJPTV. After the class where Rockefeller, Carnegie, Rosenwald, and Addams debated, it became clear how important passion and charisma are in philanthropy because even though Addams had the least amount of money to give away, she won the debate because she put everything she had into the Hull House. I think if Frymire was willing to work with the Commission (instead of copping out) and adapt to changes, he would have been able to keep his job at NJPTV.

  5. Lindy B. says:

    I agree with Megan on some aspects. I don’t think Frymire would have been able to keep his job at NJPTV even if he did adapt to some changes because, as I wrote about in my case analysis, I think some of the differences between him and his opposers were too strong to overcome and that some parties came into it determined to hate him (like the governor). However, I think part of the job of being a great leader of something like a television station is the ability to deal with other people and adapt to situations, and Frymire did not do a great job at either. He wasn’t very charismatic, like Ben said, and he didn’t seem to be very passionate about his job. The whole process of his resignation and the other people at the station arranging meetings without him seemed passive on his part, like he wasn’t really trying to be involved in his own future. I think if he was more passionate about his job and willing to fight for it, things might have turned out differently for him.

  6. Veena says:

    Thanks for the clarification on these points, everyone. I remember leaving that discussion wondering a bit more about how we view accountability. I definitely see where Frymire is at fault. He absolutely could have done much more to protect his cause as described by Prof Grimm. I think it’s important to also note, however, the bad internal decision-making that went into his appointment in the first place. I think that Frymire’s superiors had a responsibility to not only carefully evaluate his character, but also make sure he had the knowledge and skills about the politics involved. These kinds of institutional mechanisms are so important across the board, but are easy to overlook.

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