What George Steinbrenner and Dan Gilbert Teach Us About Superstars

Superstars won’t stay, unless you respect them as much as they want.

George was known for hiring and firing. “The Boss” secured (and paid) the likes of Ricky Henderson, Don Mattingly, Catfish Huner, Thurman Munson, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Dave Winfield, Willie Randolph and the list goes on. He knew how to keep most of them. Pay them, respect them and give them the freedom to excel. He didn’t treat them the same way he treated John Pacella, Homer Bush or John Habyand John Habyan. Why?

He knew the difference between a superstar and the average “team player.”

  • Supertars can’t carry the whole team. Michael Jordan couldn’t succeed without Scottie Pippen, John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong.  Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record playing for the Atlanta Braves – who never went to a World Series while he was on the team.  George built dynasties, not teams.
  • Superstars need extra incentives consummate with their talents and skills. See Brett Favre’s salary in any season (Brett was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, whose coach couldn’t handle a superstar with a bigger image than his own. The Falcons traded Favre to Green Bay after one season). George knew this and opened his wallet. So does Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. George paid his stars according to their talents that they knew they brought to the table.
  • Superstars want to be associated with a winning organization.  John Elway refused to sign with the Indianapolis Colts when he was drafted and held out to play for the Denver Broncos, who had a winning attitude. George’s dynasties were sought out by the best players.
  • Superstars know the rich will get richer.  They know the boss may be eccentric, but he will do everything he can to produce a winner. Look at what John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox has done to build a winning team in Bean Town. George, while known for firing, was known for hiring and winning.
  • Superstars leave for better run organizations. LeBron James most recently. Dan Gilbert owns an NBA franchise. It is a small club of people who can succeed to this level. But after seven seasons, LeBron wants to go to an environment where winning is not a priority – it is THE priority.  Dan can’t handle a superstar. Most leaders can’t either. George rarely lost a superstar he really wanted to keep.

Most leaders don’t know how to deal with someone with talents beyond their own. George knew how to treat the cream of the crop. Most of them stayed with him for many seasons and rewarded he and the Yankee fans with titles. How many titles have the Cavaliers won with LeBron?

How you handle your superstars and build around them determines how successful you will be. Are you sabotaging yourself?


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