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9 Hall of Fame Leadership Lessons

How you can become an immortal leader in your field.
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Six former players and managers will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 27th. So what better time to ask these all-time greats to share with Inc.com the single best leadership lessons they learned on (and off) the diamond?

Batter up!

1. Tony La Russa: "Leadership requires presentation of 'what, why and how.' What you need to do, why it needs to be done and, most importantly, how it is to be done.

"Leadership also requires consistent communication, which is delivered through personal relationships you establish. Who communicates the what, why and how is as important as the elements themselves."

2. Greg Maddux: "Only concentrate on what you can control. Control what you can and don't sweat what you can't control. Harvey Dorfman, the sports psychologist, taught me that invaluable lesson."

3. Joe Torre: "I learned a lot by observing and keeping what felt right. It's also important in leadership to make sure that everybody on your team is made to feel useful. There's no contribution that's insignificant."

4. Tom Glavine: "As a youngster, I was taught the importance of balance, to keep things in perspective. Regardless of the outcome on the field, you start the game with a smile and you end the game with a smile. When I was leaving home to play pro baseball, I was also taught the value of listening. You don't have to accept advice, but it doesn't hurt to hear people's thoughts. Both lessons came from my dad."

5. Frank Thomas : "The best leadership advice wasn't given to me. It happened to me in 2005. I couldn't play in the World Series for the White Sox because of injury, and I became more of a player/coach in the clubhouse. I tried to lead by example for the last two-and-a-half months of the season. I showed guys the right way to do things. I brought that with me the next year in Oakland, a club that wasn't picked to finish higher than third or fourth. I led a bunch of young kids by example, and we won the division."

6. Bobby Cox: "I was able to take in so many experiences--good and bad--as a player and, later, as a manager. I drew upon the recollections from those who helped me and who I admired as well as those who weren't helpful in helping me lead."

Rounding out the order

Jeff Idelson, president of The Hall of Fame added three more leadership tips to our starting line-up:

7. Passion, work ethic, trust, and humility are key ingredients to managing people and garnering results.

8. Possessing a strong character, clear communication, courage, charisma, and common sense are vital to leadership.

9. As one of my mentors, Bill Veeck, once wrote, "Surround yourself with similarly dedicated soul mates, free spirits of whom you can ask why and why not, and who can ask the same of you."

Extra innings

I figured I'd go an extra inning by tossing out the single best piece of leadership advice I ever received:

I was a young account executive whose company newsletter copy kept on being rejected by my firm's CEO. Despite his displeasure with my content, my boss never lost his cool. More importantly, he explained why he didn't like my efforts and how he thought I could improve them.

Amazed that an incredibly busy man would devote so much time to a seemingly trivial item, I asked him why. "Because I think you'll be a leader of young people one day and, when they need help and guidance, I want you to be just as patient with them as I am with you now."

He may not have been a Hall of Famer, but my CEO's words have guided me for the past 30 years.

Last updated: Jul 23, 2014

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian, and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top-tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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