Women in leadership: Editor of Spark, Taz Usher on her approach and inspirations

Profile Pic: Taz Usher

Taz Usher

Editor, The Spark Newspaper


Talk us through what you do for your society/sport/activity?

As the Editor of The Spark Newspaper, I am responsible for the general management of the Paper which includes ensuring that the publication is thoroughly planned and sent to print on time each month. As Editor, I am responsible for distributing tasks to committee members and ensuring that student members are frequently informed about writing, careers-based and social opportunities. My responsibilities include organising coverage of large events (campus-based and local), as well as keeping The Spark’s website content relevant and communicating with RUSU and University staff on a regular basis. As Editor I am also the contact for external press offices and organisations as well as prospective writers and members; a responsibility which, although means I occasionally deal with criticism, challenging personalities and welfare issues, requires a professional, level-headed approach.

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 What is your approach to leadership and teamwork?

My approach to leadership and teamwork is guided by my belief that all leaders should be role models to their teams, as opposed to exerting power over them. As Editor of The Spark, I strive to create a welcoming environment that students want to be part of, whilst acting as a source of advice that members can go to throughout the month. Whilst some people believe assertiveness is the key to getting things done, I believe that politeness and kindness are much more effective and integral for establishing a rapport between myself and my team. Such qualities, which are influential in the creation of a positive working relationship, are what makes the difference between a team that enjoys working together, and that which works together to get a job done. My approach to leadership also involves showing respect for my team and acknowledging the value of their work and efforts. I also focus on the importance of members’ praise of each other which is encouraged by termly committee awards nominations. Being part of a team also requires recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses and using these to devise an approach to the Paper which will help it to be the best that it can be. This is enabled by good communication (in the form of regular meetings and contact) which ensures that all ideas and concerns are addressed.


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What encourages or motivates you when you face a challenge as a leader?

When facing a challenge, I am motivated by the prospect that overcoming the challenge will give me the skills and tools to address something similar or larger in the future. Whilst challenges can sometimes be demotivating or stressful, I am encouraged to resolve them in order to prove my strength as a leader as well as my personal resilience. As Editor, I am also motivated to overcome challenges with the knowledge that professional journalists will have had to face a similar issue in their careers. Therefore, by overcoming a challenge at this stage in my journey I feel confident that I will be prepared for knock-backs in the industry and know how to approach them. Challenges are an important part of learning and personal development.


Is there anyone who inspires you and why?

Two people smiling

Although cliché, my mum is my biggest inspiration. Having faced and helped us to overcome numerous challenges as a family, my mum is without a doubt the person who I get my work ethic and resilience from. My mum has brought me up with the mindset that hard work and kindness are the key to success in life (even if that means agreeing to do a few too many things for free!). She’s also given me my passion for helping others and encouraged me to be creative and determined in everything that I do.

I am also inspired by public figures including Michelle Obama, as well as entertainment stars Beyoncé, Adele and Meryl Streep, and historical role models such as Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Emily Davison. Although from various backgrounds and distinct paths of life, all of these women have an influence on me as they inspire me to be the best person that I can be, to use my talents to make a difference and to work hard to make mine and others’ voices heard.


What advice would you give to those who are considering taking on a leadership role?

I would advise those considering taking on a leadership role to go for it! Regardless of the experience, you have, leading a team gives you invaluable skills that will serve you extremely well in life. Be prepared for challenges and be willing to ask for help from others, but also be prepared for success and the incredible feeling that helping others will bring. Approach your leadership role with passion, professionalism, and a willingness to listen to others. Acknowledge your team members’ strengths and use them to create the strongest team that you can. Respect your team and expect to be respected back. Most importantly, if you get knocked down- persist, learn from it, and get back up!

Permanent link to this article: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/careers/women-in-leadership-editor-of-spark-taz-usher-on-her-approach-and-inspirations/