YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Bob Hannon knew as a young boy that his life would center on sports.
“I wanted to be a broadcaster for as long as I can remember,” he says. “When I was 9 or 10, I called play-by-play games,” watching the Pirates and Steelers on TV and practicing how he might call the games.
What he didn’t know until age 47 was how sports reporting would score on an entirely different playing field – the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
Hannon grew up in New Castle, Pa., one of five children – four of them boys. “We played sports. That’s what we did. We lived it,” he says.
In high school, he landed an internship at a local radio station. By age 19, while studying communications at Slippery Rock University, “I had my own sports talk show and was doing high school football play-by-play.”
He held local radio jobs until 1988 when WYTV in Youngstown came calling. A 20-year stint as sports director followed as well as a contract that continues today as the play-by-play voice of the Youngstown State University football team.
The December 2007 merger of WYTV with WKBN upended his game plan. “I had a job but no longer was the sports director,” he says. “It bothered me. It wasn’t the same. What was I going to do?”
Today Hannon is president of the United Way chapter, a position for which he recruited himself. He studied the playbooks of United Way leaders elsewhere, reported what he learned to board members tasked with replacing the retiring Don Cagigas, and charted how he would deploy his communications skills and fund-raising team.
“We’re going to have goals and expectations … and we’re going to win,” he remembers telling the search committee.
He was hired in 2008 – at the height of the Great Recession.
Hannon shares his success story in a recent edition of the Brain Gain Leadership Podcast, a weekly series moderated by Jeff Herrmann, CEO of the Youngstown Publishing Co., and available at BusinessJournalDaily.com and through podcast providers.
No surprise: His leadership lessons bring to mind football images and locker room pep talks. But he’s also studied leadership guru John Maxwell.
“The way I look at it, it’s easy to quit. It’s easy to give up. How do you hang in there? How do you keep grinding away?” he asks.
“You either win or you learn,” he says, quoting Maxwell.
Pictured: Bob Hannon is president of United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.