Leadership and the Yankees

It’s easy for us to think about either the very good or very bad of particular leaders. The truth is that all leaders have a bit of both in them. The goal is for the good to increase and the bad to decrease. Unfortunately, sometimes the bad directly counteracts the good. This appears to be the case in the life of George Steinbrenner.

In this past week’s episode of Only A Game, the host Bill Littlefield interviewed Peter Golenbock, the author of George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Build the Yankee Empire. Golenbock points out that the Yankees had their best years following times when Steinbrenner was suspended from his duties as Yankee owner. During these times, the capable people that he hired were able to work their plan without intereference.  The Reggie Jackson years of the 1970’s followed a Steinbrenner suspension or else Jackson may have been traded sooner. A similar course of evenst happened in the 90’s. Steinbrenner has always been suspicious of prospects and has often pressured general managers to trade prospects before they hit the big leauges. In this case, a suspended Steinbrenner was unable to pressure the general manager to trade s star shortstop. Today, Derek Jeter is a nine-time All-Star with four World Series rings.

So, what do we learn from this? First, Steinbrenner hired capable decision makers and managers. Second, Stenbrenner resourced those decision makers to succed. Third, quite unfortunately, Steinbrenner involved himself far too often in the decision making process. With this poor practice of micromanagement, Steinbrenner directly negated his own good leadership qualities.

It’s another tale to illustrate a basic leadership prinicple: Hire good people. Give them what they need to succeed. Leave them alone!