Lancefield on the Line

Dan Gross: Leading a life of ambition

January 04, 2023 David Lancefield Season 3 Episode 9
Lancefield on the Line
Dan Gross: Leading a life of ambition
Show Notes Chapter Markers

What can a banker who built one of the biggest financial empires in the world and was a major philanthropist teach us about strategic leadership? A lot, in fact. 
I talk to Dan Gross, the author of a biography on Edmond J. Safra called ‘A banker’s life’. It’s a fascinating counter to many of the practices we hear and see – for better or worse – in modern day life.
Safra was incredibly ambitious, looking to build wealth, nurture his community, and build bridges across the world. We hear about his approach to:

  • Entrepreneurship, starting at a very young age.
  • Developing relationships across different cultures in three continents.
  • Putting purpose at the centre of his business and life.
  • Working out the customers he wanted to serve, and the risks he wanted to take (or not).
  • Work-life integration.
  • Succession planning.

Safra treated his business as a family. And led a dynamic, colourful life, professionally and personally.

About Dan:

Dan Gross is one of the most widely-read writers on finance, economics, and business history. Over the past three decades, he has reported from more than 30 countries, covering everything from the dotcom boom and the rise of China to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. He worked as a reporter at The New Republic and Bloomberg News, wrote the “Economic View” column in The New York Times, and served as Slate’s “Moneybox” columnist. 

Gross is a bestselling author of eight books, including Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time; Generations of Corning; Dumb Money: How America’s Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation; and Better, Stronger, Faster: The Myth of American Decline and the Rise of a New Economy.

His great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Aleppo and Damascus.


  • Profile
  • ‘A banker’s journey’ book:

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Profile of Edmond Safra
Nature vs nurture
Relationship building across cultures
Sustaining his demanding lifestyle
Leadership style
Lessons for other CEOs/founders
His approach to purpose
Succession planning
Work-life balance
Dan’s impact
Practices for best work