Business As Usual with Former Hearst CEO, Robert Danzig
by Jan Hopkins, CNNFN Anchor
JAN HOPKINS, CNNFN ANCHOR, BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL: During a career of almost 50 years at Hearst newspapers, my guest had many opportunities to examine leadership. A leader in his own right, he rebuilt Hearst into one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States. Recently retired, my guest shares his unique insights in his new book, “The Leader Within You.” Bob Danzig, welcome to BUSINESS UNUSUAL.
ROBERT DANZIG, AUTHOR, “THE LEADER WITHIN YOU”: Thank you Jan. I’m so happy to be here.
HOPKINS: So the idea of the big is not necessarily managers you’re appealing to. You’re basically saying everybody has the potential within them to be a leader.
DANZIG: I believe that to be so. I think that these powers – they are in those people that cross my path who are profiled in this book. As I developed them and began to contemplate them, I realize that they’re in every person. They’re there to be discovered and nurtured and mastered and if that means to use them to lead a more effective life, rather than leading others, then they can be useful. So they’re available for every person.
HOPKINS: So you don’t have to become a leader in the sense of a leader of men, just a leader of your own life?
DANZIG: Well, Jan. My definition of leadership is influencing your destiny, whether it’s the personal destiny with which you live your life or the destiny of an organization you’re part of. That’s the ultimate brand name of leadership, is influencing destinies so I believe that accessing those to influence your own destiny or an organization’s is something that’s within your power to develop.
HOPKINS: And do you do it the same way? Do you influence your own destiny the same way you influence an organization’s destiny?
DANZIG: I believe so. I think it’s a mindset that you have. Some years ago I read a book called “Seeds of Contemplation,” written by a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton and the focus of the book was to cause you to reflect on those things that were sources of serenity in life. I had that book in mind when I framed this one, because my hope is that this book will have selected oases for people to stop and contemplate those powers within them and access those that they believe are most apparently important to them and the way they live their lives.
HOPKINS: But it’s interesting. That’s the thing that we have the least of, time to contemplate. We’re in the midst of crisis, solving problems, moving ahead. You have to make time or you’re in trouble or what.
DANZIG: I think Jan, that’s a matter of mindset. I do not hold myself up as a paragon, but I’ve been running a very large company for 20 years. We have 6,000 employees. We’re all across the nation and yet I find I have time for lots of things in life. It’s a matter of your mindset, right. I hike four miles every morning. I swim twice a week. We’ve got five kids. We visit the children. I collect marbles. I write a book. I’m not a paragon. I am not. It’s a mindset I have though that I can achieve these various things. I believe most people would be astonished at what they already achieve in their lives during the diversity and how much more they can have if they have a mindset to conduct their life that way.
HOPKINS: Let’s talk about some of the – you have nine powers that you talk about in the book. What’s the first one or perhaps the most important one?
DANZIG: Well, they’re going to be most important depending upon the reader. It happens in my case the most important is perseverance and that’s because as I mentioned to you earlier in our time together, I grew up in five foster homes. In the foster care system, what you learn how to do is survive. That’s survival emerged in perseverance in my business life. That was a power.
HOPKINS: And it served you well.
DANZIG: It served me very well as well as the people who crossed my path and gave me insight into their powers, but let me talk about the first one that I’ve identified and that is the power of quality. Choosing quality. This place, this setting, the way you look manifests quality. That starts with a mindset. That’s available to you to choose every day. I tell a story in there which we may not have time for about my best friend in Albany who’s the chairman of the Saratoga performing arts center. He was a builder, but he had a great emphasis on quality and for example, we would have our board meetings behind the curtain when the ballet, the New York City ballet were rehearsing because Louis Swyer, my friend who I’ve written about in the book, said he wanted the board to feel the quality of those dancers when their slippers kissed the stage, not just have us administer the place and raise funds for them. Similarly, we believe in the symbols of quality. He felt that the trash cans of the performing arts center should never be more than half full because they suggested to the audience this is a special place and you are special people. Lou died eight years ago. Last summer, I went back to the Saratoga performing arts center with some guests. You know what I’m going to tell you. The trash barrels, half
full. The quality component – that starts with a mindset. He accessed his power to commit himself to quality. Everyone can do that.
HOPKINS: You also talk about perseverance and you use yourself as an example. What about some of the other powers and maybe other business executives that we’ve heard of or know of that represent them.
DANZIG: Sure. Passion is a power in every person. Innovation is a power in every person. This very place is an articulation of Ted Turner’s capacity for innovation. You think back when he was 24 years old. His father had just passed away. His company had been sold. The only thing he had going for him was an appetite for innovation and through that, look what he has built, including CNN. It’s a stunning confirmation what one person can do when they access a power within them. People think of Ted Turner as arriving, as a man who can give $1 billion to the UN. No. He started with an attribute, a power in him and he accessed it. That’s true in everyday folks also. I’ve read about the fellow who drives me to the airport. His name is Robert Scott Paterson. He’s 82 years of age. I’m the only guy he still drives, frankly a little tricky for the two of us driving back and forth to the airport, but this guy was a descendant of slaves, hitchhiked to New Jersey because he worked as a potato picker in Virginia. Took work, he and his wife, as domestics. Saved their money to buy a car and when they bought that car, they put a sign on the side of that car that said, Scotty’s Transportation Service. He built a company with 25 drivers. People who send their kids to college, who access a better life because of the commitment he’s had to the way he built that company through perseverance. I would meet him at the airport two or three hours late in a snowstorm and I said Scotty, “I can’t believe you’re here.”
He would say, “Mr. D, I’m here for the same reason I built my company. You’re either on the case or you’re not on the case.” That was his bumper sticker. That was his mindset in life. People could access their power of perseverance to say “I’m on the case.”
HOPKINS: How did you apply these powers at Hearst as a manager running the newspaper division?
DANZIG: I would hope that if you talk to any of my colleagues around the country that they would say to you, Bob Danzig caused us to have a sense of family. Bob Danzig caused us to celebrate our talents. Bob Danzig taught us how to celebrate our successes.
HOPKINS: Anybody in the corporation.
DANZIG: I would hope so. I would hope so. I hope that what they would not talk about is the way we managed the place. To me management is a given. So is management in your life all right. You’re a perfect example of it. You had to decide today to get here. You had to get yourself dressed and take a car over. You managed the activity of getting here. But what put you before a camera and caused you to resonate with an audience is the way you choose to lead your talent, not just manage your talent. People can make that choice. My view is that if all we do is manage our lives or manage a business, we tend.
HOPKINS: That’s not enough.
DANZIG: We tend to put it in neutral. We tend to put it in neutral and it begins to coast. I’ve never known anything to coast uphill, all right. Management is a given to me. This week, we’ll deliver 10 million Hearst newspapers around the country. There’s got to be a management process to do that, truck routes, which trucks are going here, which drivers. I think that subscribers in that paper have a right to believe that’s a given, that we’re going to know how to manage the process to get them there. But if that newspaper is relevant to people’s lives, is indispensable, is useful to them, is a reflection of their community. That’s because there’s a spirit in that product that flows from the leadership of that organization, not from the way we manage the delivery of it.
HOPKINS: What about the current trend in management to downsize, re- engineer? Is this doing away with that developing the spirit of the people?
DANZIG: I think there’s a risk in that, Jan. It’s the genesis of why I did this book. I felt that our institutions were becoming excessively managed and managed to the exclusion of the role of leadership. Leadership built these institutions in the first place. Ted Turner’s leadership built this enterprise. Then it has to be – that if all we’re doing is managing – I believe we tend to suffocate the organizations. We tend to treat our colleagues as adversaries rather than assets. We tend to cause them to diminish their free flow of their creativity rather than voluntarily let it flow into the building of an institution so you got to manage things, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re going to diminish that enterprise and you’re going to ultimately extinguish its soul.
HOPKINS: We’re going to end there. Thank you very much, Mr. Danzig formerly of the Hearst Corporation. Author of “The Leader Within You.” Robert Danzig. Thanks for joining us.