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Roberto Clemente: substance over image

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Baseball giant Roberto Clemente could be irascible with the press, but he merely shunned pretense. Aside from his prowess as a Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 until his death in 1972, Clemente served as a leader on and off the field.

At an early age — barely 20 — Clemente began mentoring younger Latin American players. Philadelphia Phillies second-baseman Tony Taylor, a Cuban, said he and other Latin players ate lunch with Clemente whenever they could.

“He’d try to help you and talk to you about the way to play baseball and the way to handle yourself in society and to represent your country,” Taylor remembers.

On his own team, Clemente coached Manny Mota, a Dominican outfielder who was perceived as lacking power due to his small size. Every game day, they worked on hitting. Clemente also talked up Mota with local sportswriters, and Mota eventually proved himself.

Lesson: If you take care of business and your people, your image will take care of itself.

—Adapted from Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, David Maraniss, Simon & Schuster.

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