Steinbrenner’s Legacy Reinforces the 3 Leadership Strategies of Champion Organizations

As a lifelong New York Mets fan I never thought I’d be writing a tribute to New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, but my priorities and focus have changed since the 1970s & 80s when Steinbrenner’s Yankees were my most hated nemesis.

In looking at how Steinbrenner transformed a run down franchise in 1973 valued at $10 million into a multi-billion dollar empire, the argument could be made that he did it by applying “The 3 Leadership Strategies Champion Organizations Master That Too Many Leaders Take for Granted.”

Here’s how Steinbrenner applied each of the “3 Strategies:”

Creating a Powerful Vision & Strategy
From the very beginning Steinbrenner focused the team, the media and the fans on one vision and that was to bring the Yankees back to prominence and to become World Series Champions again.

Steinbrenner purchased the team on January 3, 1973 and within four seasons the Yankees were back in the World Series. In his fifth and sixth seasons his Yankees defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in back-to-back World Series.

His strategy of finding the right team members, paying them above market wages t attract them, and then demanding high-levels of performance brought the team high-levels of success.

Personnel & Performance Management Systems With Accountability
Steinbrenner’s focus on managing personnel and their performance is legendary.

His reputation for pushing his personnel beyond their comfort zone is well-documented. Some would even say it was over the top and detrimental to achieving his desired results.

Yet, despite not being perfect and having a lull in the middle years of his rein, it got results. Because even when the team was not winning championships in the 80s the value of the franchise continued to climb.

Leadership & Teamwork Developed Throughout
Despite “The Bronx Zoo” era of the late 70s the Yankees under Steinbrenner always had great leaders. As a matter of fact it was Steinbrenner who resurrected the idea of a “team captain.” In 1976 he named catcher Thurman Munson the first team captain since Lou Gehrig in 1941.

Subsequent team captains were Graig Nettles (1982-84), Willie Randolph (1986-89), Ron Guidry (1986-89), Don Mattingly (1991-95), and Derek Jeter (2003-present).

Now, despite the team captains and the consistent focus on personnel and performance management, the team wasn’t always a cohesive unit off the field. But, there was never a waiver about the commitment to win when they crossed the white lines.

One of the quotes that resurfaced yesterday in the retrospectives on Steinbrenner’s life and career was, “winning is the second most important thing next to breathing, its breathing first, winning second.”

Many would think that a little over the top and his priorities a little out of sync. But, he was passionate about his teams performing at a high-level and providing his customers with a quality product on the field. That quote was meant to emphasize his commitment to the objective.

A key leadership trait many espouse is compassion. Compassion for those you lead. In public it seems Steinbrenner showed little compassion for those that worked for him. All we saw and heard about was his demanding and overbearing style. The softer, private side of Steinbrenner’s personality was also being shared last night in the reports of his life and it seems he gave significantly to causes important to him and his family as well as those individuals closest to him in the game he loved.

If there is one thing we, as organizational leaders can take from Steinbrenner’s legacy, I would offer his passion for what he did, his passion for excellence and offering customers a high-quality product that would return high-value for all investing in that product.

Three years ago I wrote a white paper report detailing how these three strategies create champion organizations titled, “The 3 Leadership Strategies Champion Organizations Master That Too Many Leaders Take for Granted.”

This month I am in the process of updating it and making it even more relevant for organizational leaders to apply.

It is going to include an exercise for strategic evaluation, and access to additional resources to manage performance and develop leadership and teamwork in any organization.

If you’d like to order this report while I’m still offering it as a free download, which I guarantee will be available before the end of this month click here to get on the list to receive it as soon as it is released.