Patricia Harrison, President & CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Speaking with Patricia Harrison is a super charged experience. Her enthusiasm is contagious! She crackles with energy, enthusiasm and passion for the mission of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the leading funder of U.S. public radio and television programming. Their mission is more than just delivering beloved content like Sesame Street™ and Downton Abby™; it’s about helping enrich our sense of community across the nation by listening to who we are, by illustrating the fabric of American life. In fact, Pat is so convinced that stories are the glue that binds our communities that CPB has launched multiple initiatives to encourage people everywhere to share their story.

June 2015

Pat knows all about building strong leadership communities to effect change. Before joining CPB, Pat served as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is also the chairman of the Advisory Board of Women and Girls Lead, an innovative public media initiative designed to focus, educate and connect women, girls and their allies across the globe to address the challenges of the 21st century.

To continue innovating public radio and television, Pat assembled her current team who not only share her passion for public media but are diverse thinkers encouraged to engage in healthy debate and “disruptive” conversations. It takes courage – and trust – as a leader to surround yourself with strong-minded people and open yourself up enough to listen to things you may not want to hear. But Pat believes this kind of authentic, human leadership brings forth the best perspectives and ideas, strengthening the community within CPB as well as their diverse audience of listeners and viewers.

On Communities (3:08)
I think that’s at the heart of who we are as people and sometimes we wander away from it but it’s always there. It goes back to that old idea of barn raising and people coming together, and we’re doing it now online and we’re doing it now in real time, and that is really at the heart and soul of public media.
On Confident Leadership (1:42)
Do whatever it takes. Be strong because at the end of the day it’s going to be up to you. You’ve got to be kind of brutal about yourself.
On Creating Dialogue (3:07)
We came up with a strategic framework, and when you do that, that could be very artificial. That’s like the message coming out of the office and then disseminated. But we used it almost as a mnemonic to remind us every day and we call it the three Ds, it’s digital, diversity, and dialogue.
On Leadership (1:51)
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. I think everyone has to be a leader for their own life and they have to be very aware of who they are. As Shakespeare said, “To thy own self be true,” and if you’re not, then you can’t, you can’t be a leader with integrity. You have to know who you are.
On Renewing Your Strength (2:34)
For me it’s very difficult, the word let go, of anything. And the analogy that really resonated with me a long time, I think when I was in high school, it’s an old story that if you put your hand in a jar and it’s like this in a fist. You can’t hold your hand out. You have to relax your hand and then you could, you let the let go.
On Storytelling (3:29)
In fact, we have a wonderful initiative called Story Corps that began right after 9/11 and they set-up a booth, in I believe it was Grand Central Station to just get New Yorkers to be able to sit down and talk, talk to their loved ones, talk to their friends.
On the Importance of Strong-Minded Team Members (2:32)
If you believe in public media and you believe that the Federal appropriation is an appropriate investment on behalf of the American people, then I don’t want someone who’s part of my team who doesn’t believe that.
On Using New Technology to Build Communities Beyond Borders (2:47)
People want to express themselves and now they have the tools of technology to do it. So initially a lot of it may be on the surface but then when you dig deeper the connection that they’re making on a global level, beyond neighborhoods to give that word community beyond borders.
On What it Means to Let Go and Lead (2:18)
I think you have to be confident to have the confidence to listen to things you don’t want to hear. You can’t just, anticipate or program dialogue so you may hear things you don’t like and it’s how you react to those things that can help shape you to be a better leader.
On Mission and Purpose (3:02)
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is that we were created by Congress to be the steward of the Federal appropriation that goes to America’s public media stations. That means we invest in content that educates, inspires, and entertains.