Fay Vincent and Leadership: Lessons We All Should Know


Fay Vincent, from Wikimedia Commons

Fay Vincent, from Wikimedia Commons

I don’t follow sports, and I will admit to only having a vague familiarity with the name “Fay Vincent” when I saw his February 3, 2014, op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled Ten Tips for New Executives. But his tips were all familiar to me, even if his former roles as Commissioner of Baseball and Coca Cola executive were not.

In fact, the points he made were an excellent summary of what all leaders should know and do.

Mr. Vincent says he wishes he had been given these tips when he was forty and a new executive. I think everyone enrolled in an introductory management class should be handed a copy of this article. Why wait until you are forty to learn these lessons?

Here are my comments to add to what Mr. Vincent said:

  • Be decent to everyone: Isn’t this one of the things we learned in kindergarten? Then why do so many executives forget it.
  • Be careful what you say and write; don’t joke: If you didn’t learn this in kindergarten, haven’t your lawyers drummed it into you by now? “Never do or say anything that you would be unhappy to see written about on a newspaper front page,” Mr. Vincent says. I have said almost identical words in every management training program I’ve ever conducted. Yet so many people get caught by their own foolishness.
  • Don’t confide in others; don’t complain: My jobs were mostly lonely ones. The confidentiality required in both the legal profession and in Human Resources roles means that there are few people one can unload on when things go badly. Every job is lonely in some respects. Find one or two people you trust, and make use of them.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: You cannot repeat your vision and strategy too often.
  • Tell the truth: But, as Mr. Vincent adds, you do not have to answer every question.  Only say what you can legitimately say.

Whether you train new managers and executives, coach them, advise them as attorneys or accountants or consultants, Mr. Vincent’s ten tips are worth using as you counsel others.

And they are worth following yourself. Every day.

What leadership lessons have you learned the hard way?

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