Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

Archive for December, 2010

David Stern: A Remarkable Leader

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, is one of the finest leaders of modern times. The commissioner of any sport in the U.S. is, in effect, the CEO. Unlike CEOs, however, they do not necessarily have direct position power over their dominion, for each team is a business unto itself and can act somewhat independently. Where else in the world will you find the following conditions?

  • The need to coordinate multiple organizations led by owners who are each wealthy and powerful in their own right
  • Employees who are almost all multi-millionaires and many of whom are prima donnas
  • Competition from all over the world
  • Constant scrutiny from always being in the public’s eye

Yet in spite of those conditions, the NBA as an industry has enjoyed multi-year growth in revenues, popularity, profitability, and minimum bad press, far beyond the other two major American sports, football and baseball, which are rife with players who are involved in drugs, gambling, cheating (steroids) and multiple other ethical transgressions.

From the moment he assumed his role as commissioner in 1984, Stern led the transformation of the National Basketball Association into a world-class organization. When he took over, the NBA was struggling with low attendance and high-profile player scandals. The league was also going through an exceptionally difficult financial period. Most teams were losing money and fan attendance and television ratings had dropped, causing corporate sponsorship to abandon their support. In this highly charged period of time, Stern forged new labor agreements, established a model anti-drug program, and ensured the stable growth of the organization through franchise additions; the kind of growth, moreover, that has been remarkably consistent and enduring. With a firm moral compass and intelligent decision making coupled with a friendly style that goes down easy with so many of the hard-nosed businessmen that he must influence, Stern completely changed the image of basketball while creating a viable and sustainable business model.

For good reason, David Stern

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was voted

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Executive of the Decade in 1989 by the Associate Press. And his remarkable leadership continues to this day. What impresses me most is that while so many CEOs achieve stardom by touting their accomplishments, David Stern focuses on his employees, the players themselves. While constantly in the public’s eye, he does not seek it for himself.

I’m Checked Out Some of the Time Too

Monday, December 6th, 2010

In a recent Huffington Post article, Bob Sutton revealed his top 14 examples of being an unconscious boss, derived from a

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request to his readers to seand in great examples. This led me to wonder, why would leaders be so unconscious – so checked

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out? If you’d like to ponder the question, here’s a link to the article:


Here’s a short list of examples Sutton included in a blog:

  1. A boss tried to show appreciation by giving an employee an ipod, but the employee is deaf.
  2. My first boss was the founding partner of a mid-sized law firm in Boston…. He used to come in every morning, vise-grip my head with his hands, kiss the top of it, and say “hello my luv, ho-e-you, ho-e-you.” Then he’d proceed to shred me all day long.
  3. A very attractive female direct report was working while sick. He shouted her name, and added, “You’re looking mighty ugly today!” Saying it once wasn’t enough. He said it very loudly about 3 or 4 times.
  4. My wife’s boss eats pork chops in team meetings, then picks her teeth.
  5. (He) kept me from conferring with the doctors that were treating my mother for a brain tumor.

Now it’s easy to get all huffy about these examples and say to yourself, “I would never do that.” But look deeper. I

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suspect if you are like most, you will find examples of your own checked- out behavior. I remember well a time when I had just recently separated from my wife and was talking on the phone with a date right in front of her in our living room. I had no awareness or consideration for the effect I had on my wife. She was, needless to say, quite hurt by my behavior and I was quite shocked that I did it in retrospect. What caused me to do it?. I don’t believe it was designed to hurt her. I believe I was simply in my own world, not regarding her at all. And that’s the point. So much of our checked- out behavior is not regarding the other in any way. Were we to do so, we would likely make a different choice.

We are all in our own worlds, often failing to remember that others are a part of us. The key to being a conscious leader is to remember that all our behavior affects others and the organization as a whole, all the time. Everything we do matters. If we regard others completely and become aware of our own impact, we won’t be checked-out, and we won’t engage in the kinds of checked-out behaviors cited above.