Our Miami Leader Invested in our Future series is officially launched with a spotlight on David Landsberg, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of South Florida!
Who is David Landsberg?
If you have ever had the privilege of sharing a room with David, you are likely nodding your head right now in agreement that he is inspired and inspiring. The 30-year veteran of the newspaper industry, who served as President and Publisher of the Miami Herald Media Company, now dedicates his wisdom, business savvy, and human-centered leadership approach to Goodwill. His mission is to provide opportunities to thousands of people whose disabilities or disorders are often barriers to employment.
But before we dig deeper into the man at the helm of this social enterprise, who is also a husband of 26 years and a father to three adult children, I want to give you, our readers, insight into the inspiration for this series centered around Miami leaders in the corporate, governmental, small business and non-profit sectors: At times, we see their impact, but we do not know who is responsible or understand how their work impacts us, our families and the greater community.
Let’s Get Inspired
While I believe that we are all lifelong learners who can be inspired and empowered through others, to put it plainly, we have a lot of jobs. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and wives. We wear many hats and often have little time to read the local paper or watch the news. We don’t always get time– real time– to meet the newsmakers, and if we do, it came and went in a 15-second soundbite.
I get it.
I was on the other side of the camera. I spent over a decade serving communities across the country as a television news journalist. My last stint was with WSVN-TV. I was busy, and I was not married at the time or chasing after a toddler. So, perhaps this is my continued work as a storyteller in love with Miami.
Each spotlight will include “20 questions” that touch on leadership, community, family, and, of course, local favorites. Together, let’s find out what makes these leaders tick, learn how they operate, show up for their families, and perhaps better understand how we can make a deeper imprint on our community.
Without further ado, here is David Landsberg:
Five words that best describe you: Passionate, driven, dedicated, compassionate, and empowering. The one thing I tried to do when I came here is to convince people that they were not only skilled enough to lead but ready to lead. There is no way I can lead without making sure I am working with a diverse set of people, women and minorities. As a leader, your job is to make change, not just believe that there ought to be change, but facilitate change. The same goes for ensuring you are governed by a diverse group. When I walked in the door, the board was 23% women, and today, our board is 44% women
Do you have a life motto or simply words to live by? Although shared with others — It is — Do what you have a passion for.
How did you meet your spouse? My wife and I met at The Miami Herald, which is not nearly as unseemly as it sounds. There were probably 50 married couples there. She was working in sales and marketing, and I was working in finance. We’ve been together for 32 years and married 26 years. She came from Cuba when she was a year old. She is proud of her heritage, and we have made sure that our three kids have a chance to embrace their Eastern European Jewish and Cuban ancestry. I would say they feel deeply a part of both cultures. We have spent a lot of energy making sure they have the whole experience, and where better than Miami? As a side note, we’re definitely outnumbered with 23-year-old, 21-year-old, and 18-year-old girls.
Tell us about a mentor who changed your life. Dave Lawrence. I worked with him for many years and gave up trying to mimic his intensity. Dave doesn’t let grass grow under his feet. He made me a better writer and communicator. I was clearly made better by him and also gained a lifelong friend.
Three things that make you smile. Any kind of victory one of my children has. A new skill acquired by someone who didn’t have it before. Any kind of self-realization that I have had. I am open to learning new things about myself every day. I love the serendipity of something new.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The reward is the end result. Looking at someone who either derailed in interviews or quickly derailed at a job, and watching them after a year here, with the skills to walk out of the door and succeed at an interview and job because of the opportunity Goodwill gave them. They walked out different than they walked in. That’s the gist of the mission.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? I look back on my very early career, straight out of college, and I think I had a difficult time of it. I think other parts of life got shortchanged because of the level of commitment I always have for the organization. I think that having kids was life-changing. Having kids helps you realize that every moment is fleeting, and if missed, you’ll never get them back. If you don’t make the growth of your family an objective you want to fulfill, work will take over every time. If you build a high-performing team, almost any organization is sustainable.
How do you stay motivated? Keep learning. What I did throughout my career was to learn the very most I could about anything and everything. I found myself being a student of the whole place. It prepared me to lead at a high level, and then by the time I was leaving the Herald, I also realized that what got me excited and motivated is being in the mix operationally with the people doing the work. The thing that pumps blood in my veins is the action. I am an operator at heart.
Tell us about an accomplishment that makes you proud. I am a leader-coach. Being able to build a team is a huge pride and reward thing for me. Of course, being in a place that is mission-focused keeps me going every day. I know my work helps people every day. Where else would I get to live a mission-focused existence and exercise business skills at this level? I picked the perfect job. I have my neck on the line for results, but I know the results are what keep people with disabilities employed.
What does Miami look like five years from now if it were up to you? There is nothing else that looks like Miami, but I think there’s a big difference between a place that is demographically diverse and a place that has opportunity for all. I think the coming years are going to go down as Miami being a place of opportunity for everyone — we are not quite there, but it is an incredible work in progress.
What is your number one priority to create a stronger Miami community? It starts with everyone having a voice. I think that people have got to voice their concerns about not being on a level playing field, and those that are in a position of power and control, need to be very good listeners, even if they don’t like what they hear.
Can you paint us a picture of your childhood? How has it shaped your life as an adult and parent? Even though I came from a divorced household, my mother did whatever she could do to make sure I grew up feeling loved, and I owe a lot to her for who I am today. She gave me the belief that I could do anything. She never tried to put me in a box.
I also got exposed to a very diverse environment. I grew up as a Jewish kid surrounded almost entirely by a non-Jewish set of friends, who became friends for life. I’m proudly a product of the Miami Dade School System, that exposed me to academics and a life filled with diversity, which ultimately made a huge difference in what kind of professional I would become. And that opportunity has only grown over the years. We made the same decision for each of our daughters. My third daughter has gone away to a top 20 art school, and she is clearly one of the most equipped people at the university because of what she experienced at the New World School of the Arts.
What do you think is one of the most important lessons we can teach our children? Seek happiness in life. Whether it is a job, a place, or a partner, make sure you are checking in on your own happiness, because you are going to get shortchanged if you don’t. The highest sign of success is not the level you attain, but the fact that you have pursued a life that is happy and fulfilling for you.
Finish this sentence: On the weekend, you can usually find me… Unscheduled. I need the weekend to unwind. My best weekend would be cooking, spending time with my family, and possibly floating in a boat in The Keys. Of course, I’d be cooking there as well, which is pretty much free therapy for me, learning new stuff and exercising my creativity.
Small Business: It takes a very self-actualized male to admit that I’ve never actually owned anything from these three small businesses that we support in South Miami: Mermaids Swimwear Boutique for swimsuits, Shoes To You for footwear, and Blo Me Away Hair & Beauty Bar for a proper hairstyle. Does that in itself tell you how many females I have in my household?
Sports Team: The Heat hands down.
Outdoor Destination: Overlooking the beach or a walk with my wife in our neighborhood with no specific destination.
…And A Favorite Book or Recent Read? We are first-time dog owners. We have an adorable Cocker Spaniel named Vince. One of our kids said she wanted a puppy, and we completely fell in love. I am sitting here all of the time trying to make out what’s going on in Vince’s head, and so, I love this book, The Art of Racing in the Rain. It is written from a dog’s perspective. Dave Lawrence will be entirely unhappy that I didn’t pick a history or biography! (David laughs)