Leading with a legacy

MLB Icon Alex Rodriguez says great leadership is all about prioritizing others.

Having played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball and now leading the billion-dollar brand A-Rod Corp., Alex Rodriguez knows he’ll leave a legacy worth remembering — not only as an athlete but as a leader.

Rodriguez recently spoke at the annual Jobber Summit, where he gave advice on how business owners, CEOs and other leaders can leave a lasting legacy with their teams.

Rodriguez’s first piece of advice is simple — pay attention to the wins and the losses. This includes not only the team’s achievements and missteps but your own. He adds that taking accountability is the cornerstone of good leadership.

“I’ve had some tremendous highs and was part of a world championship team in 2009 and also served the longest suspension for PED use and that was a very low point in my career,” Rodriguez says. “When you get into a situation like that you have two choices. You can either tap out and quit or you can look in the mirror and take full accountability.

“For entrepreneurs, it’s never a perfect road. One of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur is take accountability. When you mess up, raise your hand, acknowledge it’s your fault and own it,” he adds.

Rodriguez says this level of authenticity will inspire your team.

“As I live my life, I hope I can be an example and a role model of not the perfect road, but someone who has gone as high as anybody, as low as anybody but yet has learned from his mistakes and applied those lessons learned to A-Rod Corp and his legacy,” Rodriguez says.

Something that goes hand-in-hand with authenticity for A-Rod is transparency. He advises anyone in a leadership role to prioritize it.

“Problems only get bigger they don’t get smaller,” he notes. “Lead with the bad news. Creating that transparency and that relationship will pay great dividends for any entrepreneur.”

PERFECT YOUR PARTNERSHIPS. Valuing all relationships is another lesson Rodriguez says he’s learned on the field and in the boardroom. For any business to be successful, it all boils down to the relationships.

“Spend more time on relationships, trust, your likability and solving problems for your customers,” he urges. “Ultimately, if they like you and respect you, they’ll pick you over the others.”

Rodriguez adds it’s especially important to take that mindset into any negotiations.

While it’s important to have conviction and confidence in order to go into negotiations ready to make a profit, Rodriguez says you should still value the relationships with your clients and do what’s needed to foster growth within those relationships.

“I call it the 90% rule,” he says. “I’d settle for doing 90% if that means doing 10 jobs with a customer instead of just doing one and getting my big win today.

“If you want to build great businesses, always think about, ‘How does this impact my next relationship?’” Rodriguez adds. “You want it to set up like a domino. Do great work for one person, and then they will tell two or three of their buddies because they have that trust and likability with you. Ultimately, it will help the business grow.”

A CHAMPIONSHIP CREW. What Rodriguez calls the biggest lesson he learned from baseball is all about diversity.

“You can’t win a championship in business, or in sports, without great people around you,” he says. “I don’t just mean talent — but vision, work ethic and grit. Everyone at the door needs to check their ego.

“Diversity is also important,” Rodriguez adds. “Diverse teams are better…it doesn’t matter what color, what gender or what age. It just matters that you’re all bringing something to the party to help win.”

But when things don’t go right within your team, it’s best to address it immediately.

“One of the lessons I live by is I hire slow and fire fast,” Rodriguez says. “Problems don’t get smaller, they get bigger.”

To ensure everyone’s on the same page — Rodriguez says it’s all about VCP.

“VCP sands for vision, capital and people,” he explains. “The idea is when you have a crystal clear vision…then you need capital…then it’s onto the hardest part, which is people. You have to go out and find the best people in the world.”

Depending on the size and strength of a company, Rodriguez says leaders will have to decide if they are better off with four or five people who are all B- or C-level players or just one or two people who are at that A-level already.

“I always surround myself with smarter people, and I continue to be a life-long student,” Rodriguez says.

On that same note, Rodriguez says leaders shouldn’t be afraid of seeking a mentor or someone to idolize.

“I collect great mentors,” he says. “Have the courage to pick up the phone and ask for help. I think nine out of 10 times most people are willing to help and share their stories.”