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Overcoming Adversity And Leadership: Tony Bonanzino Story

This groundbreaking leadership research by has received extensive endorsements and enthusiastic reviews from well-known prominent business, political, and academic leaders who either participated in the study or reviewed the research findings. You will discover the proven success habits and secrets of people who, in spite of difficult or life threatening challenges shaped their own destiny to become successful, effective leaders. The full results of this research will be presented in the upcoming book by Dr. Howard Edward Haller titled “Leadership: View from the Shoulders of Giants.”

The nine initial prominent successful leaders who overcame adversity that were interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Dr. John Malone, Larry Pino, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

The data from the above nine research participants was materially augmented by seven other successful leaders who overcame adversity including: Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, J. Terrence Lanni, Angelo Mozilo, Dr. Nido Qubein, and Dr. John Sperling.

Additionally, five internationally known and respected leadership scholars offered their reviews of the leadership research findings including: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Jim Kouzes, Dr. John Kotter, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

This is a short biography of one of the principal participants who generously contributed their time and insight for this important research into the phenomenon of how prominent successful leaders overcome adversity and obstacles. This Anthony Bonanzino’s story:

Anthony Bonanzino was born in a lower middle-class Catholic family in West Haven, Connecticut. “My mother was a waitress, working two jobs; there was no, as I call it, ‘silver spoon.’” Tony’s father worked the graveyard shift at the post office. Anthony was only seven years old when he lost his father. He said his father’s death was “nothing unusual, it happens all the time; unfortunately he passed away when he was 44.” Tony indicated that he was totally devastated by his father’s death, and by his own admission he became incorrigible. He was expelled from a Catholic school in the fourth grade. He had gotten into some minor trouble with the law for mischievous behavior. Tony shared the story:

Tony shared, "Fortunately, there was a detective on the West Haven, Connecticut police force, who knew me well enough by that point, because I had gotten into so many minor troubles. He wanted to help; he found a school, a free, private school for fatherless boys, in Philadelphia."

The school accepted Tony. The school demanded hard work and unquestioned respect for the teachers, and imposed strict discipline. When he arrived at the school Tony described having anger at the world, but he turned his life around in the eighth grade.

Bonanzino graduated from high school at Girard. He went on to junior college “for a year and played on the ice hockey team,” but he was not really focused on his education. He then “took a year off. I went to Boston University for a period, then I joined the Air Force.” He was trained for a year in Mandarin Chinese and then was assigned for a few months to translate military broadcasts, pilot-to-pilot, and ground-to-pilot communications from Mandarin to English.

Because the Vietnam conflict was over and the military was downsizing, Tony was allowed to leave the Air Force early, with full “G.I. Bill” benefits, including educational benefits. “At the time, full benefits meant full benefits.” He could focus on his studies. Tony graduated from college with a degree in Biology and a concentration in Microbiology. After working for four years, he returned to get a Master’s degree in Operations Management.

He then went to work for Bayer AG, the large German pharmaceutical company. Tony described a “heavily dictatorial” management style. He indicated that he was a “pretty unhappy person because the work violated my core values, my beliefs.” He especially deplored what he perceived to be the company’s mistreatment of employees. Tony described his frustration when his attempts to “build the spirit and camaraderie” of his team within Bayer were thwarted by its “intransigent management.”

Tony said, “I was in a very challenging environment, not technically challenging, but emotionally challenging, because my core belief was based on respect of the individual.” But now he found himself in “an environment that was highly egocentric, debilitating in its treatment of people, and really, a violation of my core beliefs.”

Tony commented, “I prostituted myself.” Tony described the challenge of remaining in such “a debilitating, almost evil, environment for so many years, instead of having the courage to walk away.” He added that staying was “an extraordinarily difficult thing, and it takes a toll on you. It truly takes a toll.”

Tony was sent to Spokane, Washington for an assignment at the Bayer subsidiary, Hollister-Stier Labs, a small pharmaceutical and bio-technology company. When Bayer AG announced that it would sell Hollister-Stier Laboratories, Tony decided to lead a team to negotiate with Bayer for a leveraged buyout of Hollister-Stier Laboratories.

Bonanzino became the new President and CEO and immediately restructured the company, totally changing the firm’s management style. He indicated that he eliminated everything he perceived as employee abuse and invited input from his employees. In the process he turned an unprofitable subsidiary of Bayer AG into a strong and profitable separate company with its own corporate identity.

Tony also earned a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University, and continues to invest a great deal of his time in community projects and various non-profit organizations. He coaches young people in various team sports and still teaches one class each semester at the School of Business at Gonzaga University. He shared that his leveraged buyout of Hollister-Stier Labs is a case study at the Gonzaga School of Business. I initially interviewed Dr. Tony Bonanzino for almost two hours at his home in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Bonanzino continues to run his successful firm, Hollister-Stier Laboratories, while serving in a number of leadership posts in the Spokane business community.

Copyright 2006 ©

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

Submitted by:

Dr Howard Haller

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D. is the Chief Enlightenment Officer of the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho based The Leadership Success Institute. His Doctoral dissertation in Leadership Studies at Gonzaga Univ. included interviews with prominent US leaders in business, politics & education.http://www.TheLeaderInstitute.com email: HowardEdwardHallerPhD@msn.com




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