When you meet Barbara York, she is enormously charming, gracious, self-deprecating, someone who has enormous poise and this wonderful quasi-British accent, which I find captivating. What you quickly learn is her passion for the industry and her deep, sophisticated knowledge about the industry. Technically she is very good, but what distinguishes her is that she really understands the business.
The National Show is our chance to tell the story of our industry to the public, and she is always two steps ahead in knowing how to present that. I learned to listen to her when she said if you want insight into the industry, talk to this person.
She is also versed in the small-pea politics of the industry, knowing all the history of interpersonal relationships. She’s very well schooled in that.
Of course you can imagine that if you’re trying to pick the people to open the general session, you have a hundred sharp-elbowed publicists trying to get their boss on that panel. Barbara seems to glide through those choices without leaving any bruises.
I think there are a couple of reasons why she is able to do this. She has a deep passion for the industry and really has developed a real feel for the people. What motivates her is that she really cares about people. In that political, contentious environment we’re all operating in, the reason she is successful is that she really cares about people. Also, she’s able to look forward and anticipate the challenges the industry is going to have, and find creative ways to address them.
The other thing is that she has a lot of maturity and professionalism. You sometimes take that for granted, but because of the pressures she faces, having someone who has that maturity and seasoning and can make things happen without bruising anyone is really a great skill.
Finally, on a personal note, she does it with great humor. In a senior position, you can be driven and hard-working, but she handles it all with wonderful grace and humor that tends to relax people around her. That’s a great gift.
Decker Anstrom is president and chief operating officer of Landmark Communications and vice chairman of the NCTA board. He was NCTA president from 1994-99.