Inspired by Leaders, He Trains Others

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Inspired by Leaders, He Trains Others
Alan D. Abbey Business Editor
Albany Times Union Book Review: The Leader Within You
 

Robert J. Danzig didn’t have to write “The Leader Within You,” a series of crisply written profiles of remarkable individuals who have inspired him and who will inspire others. Danzig, former publisher of the Times Union, retired after two decades as senior corporate executive in charge of the Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division. Hearst publishes the Times Union. He has since embarked on a second career as a motivational speaker. He has adjunct professorships lined up at three colleges and is directing a Hearst training institute for its senior executives. So he had enough to do without writing and promoting a book.

But in reality Danzig had to write this book. He wouldn’t have been true to himself or to the leaders who inspired him if he didn’t.

The book grew out of a challenge laid down for him by a pal.“We were taking our weekly walk, and I said that the issue of leadership needs to be brought back to the table,” Danzig said. “My view was that the institutions and organizations that make up the fabric of our country had become excessively managed. Inordinate emphasis was limited to restructuring and downsizing. Management feeds the body, but it is leadership that fuels the soul.”

He said to his pal that somebody needed to write a book about that, and he challenged him to do it.

After distilling the essence of his many speeches to Hearst employees, students and others, completing interviews with his subjects and people who knew them. and doing additional research about their lives, Danzig identified what he describes in the book as the nine powers of leadership: quality, innovation, inspiration, perseverance, passion, character, charisma, energy and enthusiasm. (He pronounces the acronym “quipsy.”)

He illustrates those attributes with profiles of 34 individuals he has known or who have influenced his life. Some are famous businesspeople (Lee Iacocca, Ted Turner, USA Today founder Al Neuharth). Others are famous figures from history (California industrialist and university founder Leland Stanford, whose family had its origins in Watervliet).

Several are from the Capital Region, where Danzig was born and spent the first 45 years of his life. They include developer Lewis Swyer and grocery store magnate Frank Nigro, both of whom were prominent in their time in the Capital Region and whose offspring today carry on their business and community legacies.

But many are people unknown to the larger society, even though they are known in their hometowns and are having profound impact in smaller circles.

Danzig’s profiles include a car service owner whose demeanor is crisp, clean and professional no matter what the time of day. He writes about Conna Craig of Boston, who has founded an organization devoted to reshaping foster care and adoption.

Danzig’s point is not that the attributes of leadership his subjects exhibit are rare, unattainable or useful only in business. Even if someone has no desire or opportunity to lead another person, Danzig argues, he or she can lead a more successful life by developing those aspects of their personalities.

“None of those characteristics need to be learned,” he said. “They are in everyone. They just have to be mastered.”

Danzig included some of his own remarkable autobiography in the book’s pages. He is an orphan who grew up in several foster homes, wandered into an office boy’s job at the Times Union, served in the Navy and then went to college at night.

Barely 20 years after walking into the paper’s circulation office, uncertain how to even apply properly for an entry-level job, he became the paper’s publisher, and then the Hearst Corp. executive in charge of the entire newspaper division, stretching from coast to coast, into the Midwest and throughout Texas.

In conversation, however, Danzig clearly seeks to deflect attention from his own mastery of his book’s nine principles. He doesn’t downplay his own accomplishments but seems embarrassed by scrutiny of his own leadership skills.

“I am uninteresting,” he told an interviewer. “You are interesting.”

He will assign himself only the quality of perseverance as his leadership power. But Danzig’s desire for bringing this message across and the skill with which he has done it put the lie to that claim.

Danzig did not rely on a Hearst Corp. unit to publish the book. He sold it on his own to a small Florida publishing company, Lifetime Books.

He is embarking upon an ambitious, self-directed promotional campaign for the book that is taking him across the country. On top of that he has a five-year plan to give motivational speeches to 1 million people.

“These threads of life weave our own personal tapestries,” he said of the stories he has told. “That’s why I have a passion to do this public speaking. I want to be a part of someone else’s tapestry.”