I got word yesterday of the passing of Mark Mandala. For most of you, the name isn’t familiar. For those of you who worked at ABC in the late 1970’s through the early 1990’s, Mark was an unforgettable character. He could be loud, rude, inappropriate (even by the way less PC standards of those days), and scary. Most of the time, he was brilliant, hysterically funny, and a damn fine executive who began to guide ABC through the changes in network TV that began then as cable TV (“who is going to pay for TV – that’s nuts?) became more prevalent. Mark was a mentor of mine. He showed me that it was possible to take your work very seriously and yet not lose your humanity while doing it. I’ve often told people that the best thing about working in TV or sports was that at the end of the day, if we screw up, no one dies, which is not the case for doctors, nurses, firefighters, cops, and others. That came from Mark.
But probably the thing that he gave me that has had the most impact on others was just the fact that he took the time to sit with a very young executive wannabe and treated me with respect, helped me begin to make sense of business, and got me to laugh. A lot. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. When I met Mark, he was at and I was a traveling marketing geek from NY. He sat me down and wanted to know all about me, what I was doing, and how he could help. That relationship got closer when he moved to NY in the early 1980’s. in San Francisco
What that did was teach me that mentoring is the single most important thing we, as business leaders, can do. Maybe it’s the former teacher in me, but developing young people into executives capable of building and running a business is a significant part of our jobs, or should be. While Mark may have felt he was mentoring me, in reality he had a hand in the dozens of people I, in turn, have mentored throughout my career. Although we haven’t been close over the last few years, I’ll miss knowing that I could track him down and ask him for advice if need arose.
How are you helping develop the next round of business and thought leaders? Who were your mentors and how are you paying them back?