George Steinbrenner: How Was the Boss?
By Tom Ryan
A string of obituaries over the past week have praised the late
George Steinbrenner’s will to win and willingness to spend money to improve
the Yankees. But a few also touched on his caricatured-yet-oppressive management
With a role model in General George Patton, Mr. Steinbrenner managed
by fear. He belittled players in the press and temper tantrums became regular
fodder for the back pages of the New York tabloids. He second-guessed, micro-managed
and eventually fired his managers 20 times in his first 23 years as owner.
Other lower-level employees were likewise continually berated or fired for
miscues as small as not getting a lunch order correct. He demanded perfection.
is the most charming guy in the world, a real Mr. Nice," Campbell
Elliott, former president of American Ship Building Company, which Mr. Steinbrenner
owned, told CNN. "But to work for him? George’s attitude is that
they’re damn lucky to have a job — and if they don’t like the way he treats
them, they can just get the hell out."
Alaina Love, the co-author of The
Purpose Linked Organization, believes Mr. Steinbrenner’s tirades, fear, intimidation
and humiliation "robbed the game
of its fun" for the players and likely resulted in many players not
living up to their potential.
"In today’s terminology, we might have
labeled Steinbrenner a workplace bully," wrote Ms. Love in the On Leadership
column in The Washington
Post. "A primary foundational aspect of leadership is respect
for those under your direction, a quality sorely absent in the Steinbrenner
Apologists point to Mr. Steinbrenner’s winning drive and
said that although he expected a lot, he also paid players excessively.
Players also knew their owner would invest to put the team in a position
"Steinbrenner bet big. He never spent small," Robert Boland,
a professor of sports management at New York University, told Voice of America. "He
always reinvested in the Yankee brand."
At the same time, countless tales
of his generosity and impulsive charitable acts have come out over the last
several days. Joel Weinberger, a professor of Psychology at Adelphi University,
said it made Mr. Steinbrenner "a walking paradox." He
eventually mended fences and helped many of those he fired or publicly berated,
gave second or third chances to struggling players, and would take care of
many of his former players long after their playing careers were over.
in Huffington Post, Prof. Weinberger said the same
personality characteristics that led to his oafish "Boss" behavior
also fed those charitable acts. Fueled by his emotions, he acting impulsively
— good and bad — without reflection. With a need to "be in charge," he
demanded perfection from employees but also had a paternalistic, caring side.
Ultimately, Prof. Weinberger said, winning conquered all.
"This style leads
to mistakes and broken relationships but he was able to override those pitfalls
because of his talent, charisma, and ultimately because winning was so important
to him that he would back down if he saw that winning was in the offing," wrote
Prof. Weinberger. "Winning settled
all scores and forgave all transgressions. That is, whether you agree with
it or not, he had a value that gave all of his actions meaning."
Questions: What do you see as the pros and cons of the management style personified
by former Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner? How effective, generally speaking,
is this style in motivating employees?
- Bully in the dugout – The Washington
- George Steinbrenner: Baseball’s ‘Boss’ leaves behind a legend – CNN
- Steinbrenner Built Yankees Into Sports Empire – Voice of America
- George Steinbrenner’s Split Personality Was Not So Split – Huffington