Pictured at home with
daughter Alison, Black
knows a strong family life
is essential for balance.
flexibility and adapt to diverse work styles to win people
over and get the job done. That “aha moment” of rein-
vention came to Black at Ms. magazine when her staff re-
volted against her bold management habits. “I knew I was
perceived as bossy—in fact, I knew I was bossy—and that
people were unhappy. But I never expected they’d demand
I quit,” Black recalls. The near-mutiny forced Black to
lighten up and make a conscious effort to “take the edge
off.” She’s also had to maneuver the extremes in others’
leadership, particularly when reporting to legendary bosses,
like Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, and media mogul
Along the publishing path, she’s orchestrated high-pro-
file business deals, such as convincing Oprah Winfrey to do a
magazine. She’s also been the bearer of bad news to employ-
ees, telling the entire staff of the much-hyped Talk maga-
zine, edited by Tina Brown, that the publication was being
shelved after 28 months. “Life as an executive is about mak-
ing tough decisions, not about being popular,” she writes in
Basic Black of the high and lows of leadership.
Today, from her 43-floor office in the Hearst Tower over-
looking Central Park, the 64-year-old executive manag-
es the financial performance and development of 19 U.S.
magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar and O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Town & Country, as well as 200
international editions. Most recently, she oversaw the
launch of Quick & Simple, Hearst’s first weekly magazine
in the united States.
As a major force in the media industry and with a birds-
eye view of the world, it’s an impressive position—but it’s
also just another day at the office for Black, which gives
her great satisfaction. “It’s not about whether you can do
it all, it’s about whether you can be happy whatever you’re
doing,” she explains in The Huffington Post.
Black admits that in her case, doing what she loves to
do has not always been a balanced effort. “Here’s a con-
fession: I was a workaholic in my twenties. I badly want-
ed not only to achieve, but to overachieve—to go farther,
faster, and do more than anyone else. Whatever it took
to get ahead in my career, that’s what I spent time doing.
I was really happy during those years, and honestly don’t
regret a moment of all that hard work.”
Though she still works hard and travels constantly, Black
appreciates the non-work pleasures life has to offer, too,
like home and family. It’s the intersection of all those van-
tage points that allows her to enjoy a rewarding circle of
life: “After all, when you leave your workplace at the end
of the day, if you then have nowhere else meaningful to go,
what really have you gained with all your hard work?”
Sally J. Clasen is a freelance writer based in
Phoenix. She’s written for numerous consumer and
corporate magazines and news outlets and focuses
on health, business and travel subjects. She can be
reached at email@example.com.