Leadership Lessons from the New York Yankees

New York Yankees

Maintaining a competitive position for eight decades is a rare feat. Yet since 1921, the New York Yankees have been in the World Series 40 times and have won 27 times. What enables them to win decade after decade?

Here are 14 leadership principles that represent the Yankees’ best management practices. These are divided into three factors that represent keys for building a dynasty—leadership, processes, and culture.

Leadership Foundation

  1. Cultivate ownership values from the top down. Winning owners bring to their teams a passion to win, an opportunistic spirit, and an ownership mindset.
  2. Hire the best frontline managers you can find. Since team performance is influenced by their decisions, field managers should possess all the professional, citizenship, and leadership competencies to create excellence.
  3. Formally recognize your informal leaders. They are the individuals who excel at their job, inspire others to excel, and who display behaviors that bring credit to the team. They are respected as leaders by their teammates.

Processes for Developing a Dynasty

  1. Set the bar higher than your people have ever seen it have clear standards. Everyone must be clear as to what constitutes winning. All players must accept that individual accomplishments are subordinate to the team goal. Use spirited rivalries to stimulate internal excellence.
  2. Make organizational competences the heart of your appraisal process. Competencies are the observable and measurable skills, values, and behaviors that contribute to enhanced performance. Competencies must be clearly defined as the basis for assessment.
  3. Make everyone on the team a talent scout. Expand your scouting field by instilling talent assessment and scouting as an organizational value.
  4. Create a balance of superstars, stars, and solid performers. Dynasty teams develop around a blend of players at varying performance levels—superstars, stars, and solid performers.
  5. Establish your talent strategy and fill in the gaps. Identify and retain superstars, or acquire them from your competitors. Make sure your “battery” (key positions) has star and potential star backups. And ensure that everyone is at least a “solid player.”
  6. Create a solid farm system. Minor league teams feed talent up. Young talented players are developed, their skills are honed, and they learn team values.
  7. Pay your people based on their actual and potential contribution. The Yankees use this assessment as the basis for player salary decisions.
  8. Make the superstar the focal point. Superstars are in short supply. Cultivate your own superstars and strategically hire your competitor’s superstars.

Design Your Culture for Success

  1. Scout for a diverse talent pool in unconventional places. Consider talent from all sources and translate this diversity into on field box-office success.
  2. Celebrate your history, heroes, and legends. Create traditions of excellence. The Yankees are an American success story that has captured the imagination of people worldwide.
  3. Boldly promote your tradition of excellence. The Yankees associate the Yankee brand with winning to become an employer of choice.

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