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Build winner with run-and-gun strategy

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Profiles in Leadership

Whitey Herzog understood one of the most overlooked aspects of leadership: Make the best of what you’ve got.

When Herzog became the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team in 1980, he realized that Busch Stadium—the Cardinals’ ballpark—favored a squad with speedy runners. That’s because speedsters could take advantage of the spacious field’s artificial surface to steal bases and cover more ground when defending balls in play.

As a result, Herzog made one non-negotiable demand of his players: Run hard—all the time. He insisted that they hustle or he would replace them with faster, more aggressive players.

By assembling a fast team—and getting rid of players who either couldn’t or wouldn’t accept his run-and-gun strategy—Herzog built a winner.

Another way in which Herzog maximized his assets was to recruit switch-hitters such as budding stars Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee. Their ability to bat right- and left-handed gave Herzog ­flexibility to send hitters to the plate with the greatest odds of success against an opponent’s pitcher.

Before becoming a manager, Herzog learned from a master. In 1956, he played for legendary manager Casey Stengel. Con­­­­ferring often with Stengel, the young Herzog began to appreciate the subtleties of base running.

“Casey Stengel was probably the best teacher of fundamentals I had ever known,” Herzog says.

Herzog also possessed the confidence of a strong leader. When August Busch Jr., the Cardinals’ owner, offered $100,000 to hire Herzog as team manager for one year, Herzog refused and requested a three-year contract.

Once Busch agreed to a three-year deal, Herzog was aboard. It was a smart move for both sides: For the next 10 years, Herzog managed the Cardinals to a .530 winning percentage and won the 1982 World Series.

— Adapted from “Whitey Herzog Took Cards to the Top on Speed, Basics,” David Saito-Chung, Investor’s Business Daily.

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