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 As Unusual.
ROBERT DANZIG, AUTHOR, THE LEADER WITHIN YOU: Thank you Jan. I’m happy to be here.
HOPKINS: So the idea of the book is not necessarily managers you’re appealing to. You are basically saying everybody has the potential within them to be a leader.
DANZIG: I believe that to be so. I think the leadership powers I’ve profiled are available in every person. They are there to be discovered and nurtured and mastered. If that means using them to lead a more effective life, rather than leading others, then they can be useful.
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 are part of, leadership equates with influencing destinies. I believe that accessing the powers within us is something that every individual has the potential to develop and cultivate.
HOPKINS: 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 you have. Years ago, I read a book called Seeds of Contemplation, written by the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. The focus of the book was to cause you to reflect on things that were sources of serenity. I had that book in mind when I framed The Leader Within You. I hope this book will offer oases for readers to stop and contemplate those powers within themselves and help them access what they believe are most important to the way they live their lives.
HOPKINS: That’s the thing we seem to have the least of, time to contemplate. We are in the midst of a crisis, solving problems and moving ahead. You have to make time, or you are 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 have been running a very large company for 20 years. We have 6,000 employee colleagues. We are all across the nation, and yet I find I have time for lots of things in life. I hike four miles every morning. I swim twice a week. I spend time with my five children. I collect marbles. I write a book. Again, I am not a paragon. It’s a mindset I have that I can achieve these various things. I believe most people would be astonished at what they have already achieved in their lives and how much further they can go if they have a mindset to conduct their life that way.
HOPKINS: You have nine powers you talk about in the book. What’s the first one or perhaps the most important one?
DANZIG: Well, the order of importance really depends on the reader. For me, I would say the most important power is perseverance. That’s because I grew up in five foster homes, and in the foster care system, you learn how to survive. That survival emerged as perseverance in both my personal and my business life.
HOPKINS: And it served you well?
DANZIG: Very well, but let’s talk about the first power I identified in the book: Quality. The power to chose quality. For example, this place, this setting, the way you look, it all exemplifies quality. That starts with a mindset that’s available to you and to everyone to choose daily. I tell a story in the book about my best friend Lew in Albany, chairman of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. He was a builder with a great emphasis on quality. For example, we would have board meetings behind the curtain when the ballet company was rehearsing because Lew wanted us 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, Lew and I believed 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. Lew died eight years ago. Last summer, I went back to the Saratoga performing arts center with some guests. The trash barrels, half full. That quality component starts with a mindset. He accessed his power to commit himself to quality. Everyone can do that.
HOPKINS: What about some of the other powers and maybe other business executives that we’ve heard of or know of that represent them.
DANZIG: 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 to 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 of 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 written 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. Scotty was a descendant of slaves. He and his wife worked as domestics. They saved their money to buy a car and put a sign on the side that said, Scotty’s Transportation Service. He built a company with 25 drivers, which provided the income for him to send his children to college and the driver’s to send their children to college. He accessed a better life because of his commitment to perseverance. I would meet him at the airport, sometimes arriving two or three hours late because of a snowstorm. I’d say, “Scotty, I can’t believe you’re here.” He would say, “Mr. D, I am here for the same reason I built my company. You are either on the case or you’re not on the case.” That was his bumper sticker. That was his mindset in life.
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, “Bob Danzig created a sense of family. He celebrated our talents, celebrated our successes.”
HOPKINS: Anybody in the corporation?
DANZIG: I would hope so. I hope they would not talk about the way we managed the place. To me management is a given. So is management in our lives. You are 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.
HOPKINS: That’s not enough?
DANZIG: We tend to put our lives in neutral and begin to coast. I have never known anything to coast uphill. As I said, 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 have a right to believe that we’re going to know how to manage the process to get their newspapers to them. But if that newspaper is relevant to people’s lives, if it is indispensable, and useful, and a true reflection of their community– that’s because there’s a spirit in that product that flows from the leadership of our 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 developing the spirit of the company?
DANZIG: I think there is a risk in that, Jan. It’s the genesis of why I wrote this book. I felt our institutions were becoming excessively managed to the exclusion of the role of leadership. Leadership built these institutions in the first place. Ted Turner’s leadership built this enterprise. If all we are doing is managing, I believe we tend to diminish the free flow of creativity and ultimately extinguish the soul of the place.
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–thank you for joining us.