Mozeliak: Behind the ‘Cardinal Way’ to success

Joe Piganelli, MBA ’18, wrote this post on behalf of Bauer Leadership Center. Olin Blog is running it today, the day of the Cardinal’s home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While the common fan may not view baseball this way, running a baseball team is just like running a business. Both require focus, discipline, and leadership skills. There are revenues, expenses, profits, and losses that must be managed for the team owners.

John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, holds these responsibilities. He has implemented a unique system of coaching and feedback spanning the entire Cardinals organization.

Recently, the “Defining Moments” class at Olin had the opportunity to hear Mozeliak. He told us what leadership means to him, sharing the correlation between leadership and success within the Cardinals organization. What stuck out to me most about Mozeliak’s leadership tactics were his discipline and adherence to systems and his ability to focus on areas where he can have the most impact.

In the Cards’ organization, individuals receive bimonthly feedback on whether they are at a constant level of performance, improving performance, or declining performance. Those with constant or declining performance levels learn how they can achieve improving performance. This system sounds simple and intuitive, but is difficult. It requires amazing discipline, prioritization, and consistent management to stick to and maintain it.

Mozeliak’s strict adherence to systems, routines, and concepts of organizational management have provided him the means to sustain and enhance the mystical “Cardinal Way.” The key element to managing these systems is his ability to not micro-manage.  The “Cardinal Way”—the organizational philosophy of the team—depends not only on discipline, but also trust.

Mozeliak trusts his people and likewise his people trust him. He provides his team the autonomy and space to run these systems, creating a stronger team on and off the baseball field.

The privilege of listening to our (favorite) baseball team’s president of baseball operations was unforgettable. Mozeliak gave us a window into the hard work and discipline that goes into leading any organization to success—especially a winning baseball team.

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