But the way that Pena handled the following situation speaks volumes about his philosophy as a leader.
After the Royals hired Pena in 2002, Kansas City’s sports radio station, WHB-AM, announced that Pena would not be a guest on host Kevin Kietzman’s show because of Pena’s heavy Spanish accent.
“Nothing personal against Tony,” Kietzman told the Kansas City Star. “I like him. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm. But the bottom line is I have to think about the show. That has to be my No. 1 priority. It is a difficult interview, to be honest. And it doesn’t make for good radio.”
Kietzman rejected the idea that his action was controversial. “It’s just that I do my show in English,” he said.
As a leader and a class act, Pena refused to criticize the decision in public. He even told people in the Royals’ front office that he believed the real problem was his deep voice, not his accent or his ethnicity. Pena said he would continue taking English classes because it was part of his job.
“That’s why I keep trying to get better,” he said. “I’m trying to get better at everything, from my managerial skills to this.”
Lesson: Sometimes, it’s what you don’t say that shows you’re a leader.
—Adapted from The New Face of Baseball, Tim Wendel, HarperCollins.