New York Yankees – Leadership Lessons

Three important lessons for IT Managers

It was the monthly Friday Night bash at the 9thCloud Pub on 36th Street and most of the managers from DMRGlobal were present ,particularly the baseball fanatics.  The baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers had just ended with the Rangers winning 12-4 and the conversation became boisterous. “The New York Yankees have been in the World Series 39 times and won 26 times in the last eight decades”, said the quiet spoken head of R & D, Bruce Eden. “And I often wonder how they have been doing it so well and for so long” he said, nimbly tossing an intriguing perspective for a general discussion and introspection.

“Leadership is the critical success factor” Don Ellis, the SVP of IT, offered. “Look at the owners themselves starting with Jacob Ruppert and down to George Steinbrenner. They were winners and they inculcated this self belief in everyone in the organisation.  They hired the most knowledgeable and capable front line managers not because they were very successful, most of them were not, but because they shared the values of the owner and the Yankees organisation. Finally, they had a talent for identifying and formally recognizing the brilliant team leaders not only for what they achieved but because everyone admired their demeanor and they were best equipped to instill the core beliefs of the Yankees and motivate everyone to exceptional levels” Don concluded.

“But just believing you are a winner does not make you one” Ron Headley, the Head of Wealth Management, took over. “They set the bar at lofty heights and expected to win the World Series every time and they have the largest fan base of all the teams. The team always came first and everyone was measured on a competency metrics and their achievements which were linked to their remunerations. Each one was graded as a solid player, star player or a super star. It is not feasible to have superstars for every position but a judicious balance of all three types is what makes them the winning team” Ron continued. “Another important factor in their success is the talent identification and development. Everyone wanted the best talent to join up and so each one was a talent scout. The Yankees built an enviable Farm system to nurture and develop talent and many of their stars and superstars have come from that. The Yankees have always been the best paymasters too and they carefully remunerate their players on their contribution to the team’s success. They have not only paid big bucks to buy superstars from others they have paid hefty amounts for their own star players to ensure they retain them.  Since Superstars tend to be very few, they have perfected the art of making the superstar the focus of the team thereby making a powerful retention as well as motivational engine” he finished.

The energetic Sales Head, Bob Willis, jumped up saying “It is all about image. After the Yankees’ Dark Age from 1965 to 1975, the Yankees removed all diversity restrictions and now boast of African-American, Asian, Latino as well as Caucasian players. This diversity not only expands the talent pool but also increases the fan base and the different cultures bring their unique strengths into the mix as well. Look at the legends and history of the Yankees and all of us have heard the stories and the myths that portray the vision of excellence with the heavy focus on values, competencies and achievements. Their  powerful PR engine ensures these are publicized along with their merchandise and gives them a tremendous following and a huge base of loyal fans” he said and sat down.

Bruce put his draft beer mug down and started – “So, if I may sum up” he started. “The Yankees’ secret is Leadership, Processes and Culture. Leadership drives the ownership values through the organisation, hires the best front line managers who share the same ideals, and ensures brilliant internal leaders are recognized. The Processes ensure that the sky high expectations are visible to everyone; there is a transparent appraisal of competencies and potential; that encourages everyone to scout for talent; ensures a balance of solid players, stars and superstars and a talent strategy based on this; a strong Farm System; compensation that is the best but related to potential as well as actual performance; and ensuring the superstar is a visible focal point. Finally, Culture ensures there is a diverse talent pool, a conscious and concerted effort to build pride by celebrating heroes and spreading war stories thereby building organisational pride and always be visible as a standard for excellence. Seems to me there is a lot to learn from for ourselves” he finished and saw that everyone had thoughtful looks on their faces.

Running Information Technology Unit is no different than a Business Unit or a  successful Sports team. Its leadership, the processes you put in place and the culture you inculcate!

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