Forum: Five leaders’ insights that are well worth your time

We’ve had great fun with our new podcast series, “SBJ I Factor,” which looks at the personal journeys of our various award winners and top executives in sports. Some of the quotes and anecdotes that have stood out to me:

KAGR CEO Jessica Gelman, on listening to her staff: “For about 12 years or so, I do an annual survey to my team and everyone who works at the organization. It’s just a couple of questions. What are your goals? What are your aspirations? What are areas that we are challenged? I read all of them. I respond to all of them. It allows me to get to know what people want to do. People who are in the day-to-day see things that I might not see and have amazing ideas. Providing the forum to share that is super critical.”

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, on what he looks for in a hire: “People that have overcome adversity. I look for people that have demonstrated that they can get things done. And I also like people that have done things they have never done before. [That] says a lot about a person, because those people have demonstrated that they have courage, that they have the ability to rally a group of people together to get something done, to have it start with an idea and then to get it done. I look along my career, I’ve always had this mindset of, ‘Okay, what hasn’t been done before? And how do I create those kinds of things?’ It could be small things and it doesn’t need to be things you completely invent, because I’m not necessarily a creative person.”

PGA of America Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Price, on young executives focusing on the role they are in and not always angling for the next job: “Understand that executives and others are watching how you perform in the role that you’re in. And when you bring your best effort every day to the job that you’re in, and you’re not perceived as trying to step to the next thing, that’s when opportunity is created.”

San Francisco 49ers President Paraag Marathe, on handling tough negotiations: “It requires a deep sense of empathy, understanding the other side, what their pressures are, what they’re feeling, how they’re feeling about it, how they might react to certain things. I spend 90% of my time preparing for the negotiation and within that, less about what I want and what I’m looking for, and more about what is important to them, what are the hot buttons for them, what are the things that they are empowered to make decisions on and how can I give them what they need to feel good about a deal? It’s kind of like a movie set. Before every negotiation I think about what role am I going to play? Am I going to be the protagonist? Am I going to be the antagonist? Am I going to be the good cop, the bad cop? … Is this going to be a comedy? Is this going to be a drama? Is this going to be a suspense thriller? And I just paint it like it’s a Hollywood set and it’s a play and we’re enacting this play. Then, when you get into difficult negotiations, you can check in and check out of that set.”

Tepper Sports and Entertainment President Tom Glick, on qualities he looks for in leadership: “The great leaders I think of are great communicators. They can simplify things. They can inspire and motivate people to not only to work but work together and toward a shared purpose. Great leaders are really high energy or can recharge quickly. There is really no substitute for hard work, and great leaders have a really good work ethic and are able to quietly in the background stay on top of everything. Whether it’s doing that extra little bit of homework or reading or whatever is needed. And especially as you get into general management, the ability to focus, be present, compartmentalize other things that don’t have to do with the meeting that you’re in or the subject that you’re on. If something bad has happened, being able to switch that off and to focus on whatever comes next. That quality is really important because not everything goes well and there are a lot of things that fit into a day and being present and being able to address whatever is next in front of you is a quality that good leaders have.”

These interviews are all available online and provide great lessons for the young and veterans alike. They are also valuable in any classroom and employee learning and engagement setting. They’ve been eye-opening, educational and inspirational, so check them out and please share any questions, thoughts or comments with us.

Abraham Madkour can be reached at

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