The New York Yankees are one of the most successful teams in sports history, a hugely profitable enterprise and a model of excellence. In this in-depth, business-oriented look at baseball’s most storied franchise, author Lance A. Berger, writing with Dorothy R. Berger, suggests that any business interested in achieving greatness should study the Yankees’ management techniques. He cites having a bigger payroll than other teams and using that money to secure top talent, but the lessons go well beyond that. People who follow both business and baseball – Yankees fans, in particular – will appreciate this analysis. The book dates to 2005, so its baseball stats aren’t up to date, but its management advice is a home run.
- Establish strong leadership as the basis of your team’s character and achievements.
- Every business needs a superstar or two, three or four stars, and many solid players.
- Being a superstar does not necessarily qualify a player for leadership.
- Put the team first.
- Prioritize attracting, developing and retaining the best talent.
- Modify baseball’s “farm team” system to develop future leaders.
- Reposition veteran employees as mentors and coaches.
- Expand your firm’s potential by embracing diversity.
- Help your employees develop pride in the company. Their winning attitude can transform your organization.
Establish strong leadership as the basis of your team’s character and achievements.
The most influential owners in the history of the New York Yankees – Jacob Ruppert, Del Webb, Dan Topping and George Steinbrenner – were successful businessmen before they entered the sports arena. They understood that the qualities most pertinent to success in the corporate world also applied to owning a Major League Baseball team. First and foremost, the Yankees’ owners have always expected to win; failure – or even second place – was never an option. This philosophy permeates the organization. Even locker room attendants develop a sense of “Yankee Pride:” Everyone is focused on winning a world championship.
Through the years, Yankees’ owners have shared several traits: They all knew how to make a profit, assemble an organization and apply the rules of baseball, on and off the field. The team’s management has hinged on hiring competent individuals for senior executive positions, including president and general manager. The owners carefully selected executives who shared their philosophies, values and work ethic. They hired leaders who knew their goal was to execute the owners’ mandate, disseminate the team’s philosophy and win ball games.
“Every organization must have clear and established winning standards for the organization as a whole and for each employee.”
Regardless of upper management’s expertise, experience and commitment, the field manager is, perhaps, the most important individual in the Yankees’ hierarchy. He links the players and upper management. He is directly responsible for embracing the organization’s philosophy and passing its core beliefs to the players. Joe McCarthy, who managed from 1931 to 1946, won seven world championships with the Yankees. Recognizing the importance of Yankee traditions, he insisted that players wear ties and jackets off the field and carry themselves with dignity.
Every business needs a superstar or two, three or four stars, and many solid players.
The Yankees’ roster generally carries a mix of talent: Three or four stars and a host of solid players surround one or two superstars, such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Management expects consistent contributions from players in each rank.
As in any business, baseball team leaders inevitably emerge from within the team or, in business, from the workforce. Upper management should cultivate them. Leaders “on the field” should respect and support management, inspire their colleagues, welcome challenges, project the organization’s positive image, and guide younger, less experienced workers or players. Recognize such leaders and let them exert influence. Give them more responsibilities. Put them in charge of projects and committees, and have them chair meetings. Even though modesty is an important trait for leaders, your company should recognize them publicly when possible.
“Know what you can afford to spend on employee pay and spend no more.”
A win-loss record is only one way to assess a manager’s leadership potential. The Yankees seek other key characteristics, such as determination, the ability to overcome adversity, and willingness to adopt and promote the team’s approach. When the Yankees strayed from this formula, the results were disastrous. Hiring the late Billy Martin proved to be an enormous mistake with far-reaching consequences. Although Martin knew the game and was a fierce competitor, he clashed with the players and upper managers. Chaos was the rule, not the exception. His battles with superstar Reggie Jackson were legendary. Martin helped plunge the Yankees into a 13-year period without a World Series.
Manager Joe Torre, who won four World Series with the Yankees, was Martin’s opposite. A positive thinker, he projected confidence and maintained an even keel emotionally. His players trusted and respected him. Even team captain Derek Jeter referred to him as “Mr. Torre.” Originally, fans and the media criticized Steinbrenner’s 1966 decision to hire Torre to replace William “Buck” Showalter. Torre was an outstanding player – a nine-time All-Star – but he’d had an undistinguished managing career with three other teams and hadn’t come close to a championship. Over time, Torre’s quiet, distinguished manner proved to be enormously effective, and his record speaks for itself.
Being a superstar does not necessarily qualify a player for leadership.
The Yankees’ most notable team captains – Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter – were skilled and determined role models, confident but not boastful. Their behavior inspired their teammates. Munson, who died tragically in a plane crash in his prime, was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1976. After two years in the minors, he caught from 1969 to 1979 and played in two World Series. Fans and colleagues admired his approach to the game and his fierce competitive spirit. Like Gehrig, Munson led by example and never sought the spotlight.
For years, Gehrig held the record for most consecutive games played. People revered his work ethic and humble nature. He was comfortable allowing his teammates – Babe Ruth and, then, Joe DiMaggio – to garner all the publicity. He was only interested in the team.
Miller Huggins, manager from 1918 to 1929, found that dealing with the great Babe Ruth was his biggest challenge. Ruth, a legendary troublemaker, was hugely popular. Although he brought fans into the stadium, Huggins still tried to keep the Ruth in line and punished him for breaking rules. Moreover, then-owner Jacob Ruppert supported his manager’s decisions, a commitment that became standard for Yankees owners. Despite his talent, Ruth was unsuitable captain material. He was a drinker and womanizer who constantly challenged team rules.
DiMaggio, whose behavior was never a problem, didn’t aim for an executive slot; as an introvert, he wasn’t interested in being a clubhouse leader.
Put the team first.
Baseball relies on statistics to measure a player’s performance, potential and value. Leadoff hitters are expected to get on base. Cleanup hitters are expected to hit homers and knock in runs. Outstanding pitchers should win 20 or more games. But an individual’s soaring batting average or earned run average does not ensure the team’s success. Even superstars have to put the team first – and that is a significant key to the Yankees’ success. No one player is greater than the team. This important principle applies to any business.
“Employees must understand their potentially critical role in bringing fresh talent into your company.”
Miller Huggins established a code of behavior that Yankee players still follow. He emphasized winning, prioritizing the team over any individual, mutual respect for teammates and getting along with management. He believed that having a different set of rules for any single player would be disastrous. For years, Steinbrenner insisted that his players could not wear beards or long hair. Following that rule was just part of being a Yankee. Johnny Damon, a scruffy, talented player acquired from arch-rival Boston Red Sox, had to shave and get a haircut when he joined the Yankees.
Prioritize attracting, developing and retaining the best talent.
Superstars who lack leadership and citizenship can tear apart the fabric of a team. An under-performing superstar might cripple a team or a business, yet problems also arise when solid players fail to deliver.
“Most Yankees superstars – including such greats as Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams – have been developed internally, not bought or traded from other teams.”
After all, solid players make up the majority of any team’s roster or payroll. The Yankees also excel at acquiring other teams’ fading superstars. They become key contributors again with the Yankees, and the team takes advantage of their experience, professionalism and leadership. Blending talents assures a solid performance. Balance is the key, in sports and business.
Modify baseball’s “farm team” system to develop future leaders.
Traditionally, a Major League baseball team is only as good as its farm system. Although the Yankees have a reputation for spending huge sums of money for free agents, many of their best players are products of their minor league system. Renowned baseball executive Branch Rickey (who signed Jackie Robinson) developed the major league farm system in 1925, when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. The present-day farm system is quite sophisticated with different talent levels from rookie to A, AA and AAA. The minor leagues’ main objective is to develop talent for the major league clubs. Winning is almost secondary, although great AAA teams can develop strong fan followings and generate profits for their parent clubs.
“The Yankees not only develop the professional skills of the players in their minor league clubs, they develop their citizenship and leadership skills as well.”
The Yankees’ dynasty has its roots in the farm system, particularly when it comes to developing catchers. Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, who caught from 1928 through 1946, played in eight World Series. His successor, Yogi Berra, another Hall of Famer, played on 10 World Series teams. Catcher Jorge Posada played on four championship teams. In the minor leagues, Yankees players develop more than just their physical skills. They learn how to conduct themselves as Yankees and how to behave in the clubhouse and off the field. Not every Yankee player becomes a leader, but each one learns leadership.
Reposition veteran employees as mentors and coaches.
One of the keys to a successful farm system is creating space for talented players, especially rising stars. The same principal applies to the corporate world. As long as an individual is performing, you may not need to “change the lineup.”
“Hire fading superstars and stars who are divested from other organizations. They can supply short-term professional skills and be role models for citizenship and leadership at lower costs.”
In fact, teams and corporations usually try hard not to lose top performers. But when a seasoned veteran starts to falter, a company may have to find a younger replacement. Termination is not the only alternative. Savvy companies utilize their veterans’ skills, either by shifting them to new positions or maximizing their leadership abilities as mentors or coaches.
Expand your firm’s potential by embracing diversity.
The Yankees were slow to expand the ethnicity of their team. Catcher Elston Howard, the team’s first African-American player, began playing in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League color barrier. George Weiss, general manager from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s and an important architect of the team’s success, expressed the racist opinion that white fans would not be interested in seeing Black players. Consequently, for a time the Yankees’ farm system didn’t consider talented Black prospects, such as Ernie Banks, a Chicago Cubs star. By 1963, the Yankees had only five Black players.
“A shrewd manager can use the Yankees’ principles to create a winning tradition…much more cheaply and more effectively than his Yankee-like competitors.”
A business that refuses to embrace diversity is limiting its own potential. Minority hires can improve a corporation’s innovation, performance and community image, as well as atttracting other talent. For the Yankees, the turning point came in 1966 with the addition of African-American Bob Watson. He fit the Yankee profile – a respected leader who elevated the team’s image. Watson set the stage, and the Yankees began qualifying for the playoffs and paying more attention to ability than skin color. Particularly under Steinbrenner, the Yankees have left no stone unturned in their search for talent. In addition to signing gifted Hispanic players, the Yankees went halfway around the world to entice talented Japanese players, such as power-hitter Hideki Matsui, a mainstay on the Yomiuri Giants – Japan’s Yankees. Matsui fit the Yankees’ personality: hardworking, low-key, fan-friendly and productive on the field.
Help your employees develop pride in the company. Their winning attitude can transform your organization.
The Yankees have always welcomed favorable publicity. To make use of this resource, build a solid relationship with your local media. Continuously send out press releases heralding your employees’ noteworthy achievements or recognizing internal promotions. Reach into the multicultural community by sponsoring local events or fund-raisers. Jump at the chance to participate in blood drives or charity events to boost your company’s community presence. Send your employees to schools as guest lecturers. Bring local groups into your factory for educational tours or invite customers to see your plant. Give them a first-hand look at how you work. Don’t miss any opportunity to get positive attention for your firm.
“Any manager can build his or her own version of Yankee Stadium by shaping work areas to include recognized symbols or organizational and individual triumphs.”
Create and sustain pride among your employees by focusing on the company’s tradition and accomplishments. For instance, your marketing department could provide a history of your business, including interviews with founders who might relate fascinating anecdotes about the firm’s origins. Honor the past. One of the Yankees’ most popular promotions is Old-Timers Day when great former ballplayers assemble in Yankee Stadium. You can create a space in your lobby or reception area to display plaques and pictures proudly, the way teams show off their trophies, ribbons and memorabilia. Even though your company may not boast a Heisman Trophy winner or a Most Valuable Player, chances are that your leading employees also deserve to have their pictures on the wall.
About the Authors
Lance A. Berger is a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies and has served as a consultant to Major League Baseball. Change management consultant Dorothy R. Berger manages the couple’s consultancy and is production editor of The Change Magazine. Together, the Bergers produced The Talent Management Handbook, The Change Management Handbook and The Compensation Handbook, and they co-authored Deengineering the Corporation with Martin J. Sikora.
“Management Wisdom from the New York Yankees’ Dynasty” explores the principles and strategies employed by the New York Yankees baseball team during their successful period of dominance. The authors, Lance A. Berger and Dorothy R. Berger, draw valuable lessons from the team’s management tactics and present them in a business context, making this book relevant to managers and leaders in various industries.
The book begins by providing an overview of the New York Yankees’ history and the key figures who contributed to their success, including owners, managers, coaches, and players. The authors emphasize the importance of strong leadership, effective communication, and building a winning culture as essential elements in achieving long-term success.
Throughout the book, the authors delve into the specific management strategies employed by the Yankees and discuss how these strategies can be adapted and applied to different organizational settings. They cover a range of topics, including talent acquisition and development, motivation and accountability, teamwork and collaboration, and fostering a culture of excellence.
Drawing from numerous anecdotes and examples, the authors highlight the significance of aligning individual goals with organizational objectives, fostering a competitive and results-oriented environment, and nurturing a sense of unity and shared purpose among team members. They also explore the challenges faced by the Yankees and how they overcame adversity through resilience, adaptability, and innovative thinking.
In addition to examining the team’s management strategies, the book also delves into the personal philosophies and leadership styles of key figures within the organization, such as George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre, and Derek Jeter. These insights provide valuable lessons on leadership, decision-making, and creating a winning mindset.
Overall, “Management Wisdom from the New York Yankees’ Dynasty” offers a comprehensive exploration of the management principles and practices that contributed to the New York Yankees’ success. The authors provide practical advice and actionable insights that can be applied by managers and leaders in any industry, emphasizing the importance of effective leadership, teamwork, and a strong organizational culture.
“Management Wisdom from the New York Yankees’ Dynasty” is a compelling book that offers valuable insights into the management strategies and principles behind the success of one of the most storied sports franchises in history. Lance A. Berger and Dorothy R. Berger provide a well-researched and engaging exploration of the New York Yankees’ dynasty, presenting practical lessons that can be applied by managers and leaders in various fields.
One of the book’s strengths is its ability to translate the Yankees’ management tactics into actionable advice for readers. The authors skillfully bridge the gap between sports and business, demonstrating how the principles that led to the Yankees’ success can be adapted to different organizational contexts. Whether it’s talent acquisition, motivation and accountability, or fostering a culture of excellence, the authors offer concrete strategies that can be implemented by managers seeking to improve their own teams.
The book is also enriched by the numerous anecdotes and examples used to illustrate key points. The authors draw from the experiences of notable Yankees figures, providing real-world examples that bring the concepts to life. This storytelling approach helps to engage the reader and make the lessons more relatable and memorable.
Furthermore, the authors’ exploration of leadership styles and personal philosophies adds depth to the book. By examining the approaches of influential figures like George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre, and Derek Jeter, readers gain a nuanced understanding of the different leadership styles that contributed to the team’s success. These insights offer valuable lessons on decision-making, team dynamics, and creating a winning culture.
While the book primarily focuses on the New York Yankees’ dynasty, the lessons presented have broader applicability. The authors consistently emphasize the universal nature of the principles discussed, making the book relevant to managers and leaders across industries. Whether one is leading a sports team, a business venture, or a nonprofit organization, there are valuable takeaways to be found within the pages of this book.
In conclusion, “Management Wisdom from the New York Yankees’ Dynasty” is a well-crafted and insightful book that offers a comprehensive exploration of the management principles behind the success of the New York Yankees. Lance A. Berger and Dorothy R. Berger provide actionable advice, supported by compelling examples, and demonstrate the relevance of these principles to managers in various fields. This book is recommended for anyone seeking to enhance their leadership skills and build a high-performing team.