Peter Ueberroth on Leadership

Do you remember Peter Ueberroth? He was the commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1984 to 1989, after that he went on to become the director of Coca-Cola and chairman fo the U.S. Olympic Committee. Newsweek (October 20, 2008) did an interview with him on the subject of leadership. The interviewer was Richard M. Smith. Here are a few excerpts that stood out to me and why.

Smith: In the Olympics and in Major League Baseball, you developed a reputation for toughness. How do you decide when to be tough and when to be more relaxed?

Ueberroth: When there’s an integrity issue. We like to use the phrase “chalk lines.” In football and baseball there are white chalk lines on the grass, and if you cross them you’re out of bounds. We say, “Don’t get any chalk on your toes, don’t even get close.”

Leadership principle: Don’t get any chalk on your toes, don’t even get close.

Smith: What do you look for in a young leader?

Ueberroth: When you get past integrity, you go to curiosity. [When I observe young leaders] what I’m so surprised by is, everybody wants to talk, to make a presentation, to do something rather than ask questions. The smartest people are the ones who continue to drive for information.

Leadership principle: Talk less, ask more.

Smith: Do you think you can spot integrity when you meet people, or shortly thereafter?

Ueberroth: No. You mostly don’t see it until there’s an issue. There’s value in crisis, because you see who stands up.

Leadership principle: Pay attention to people during times of crisis or conflict. This is when a person’s character will show up. You don’t see integrity until there’s an issue.

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