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The Leadership Lessons of Alex Rodriguez

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Photo Credit: USA Today

Alex Rodriguez didn’t need the money.He signed a contract valued at $275 Million in 2007.He had more money than his grandchildren, and possibly had grandchildren’s grandchildren could spend in their lifetime.

Those sorts of contracts don’t grow on trees.Their offering is a once-in-a-generation type event.Arguably more rare than that, even in an age of inflated payrolls.The frequency of the offering matches the availability of the talent on which it is focused.Ask anyone in baseball.Anyone who watched him play in his prime, for that matter.Alex Rodriguez was gifted perhaps like no other.

So why cheat?If you’re not driven by greed, what then?

The answer is fear.Alex Rodriguez, for all his physical gifts, was scared that he would never measure up to what he was supposed to be.He was weak enough to allow public perception to shape the person he was to become.To the extent that he had a moral compass, Alex Rodriguezabandoned it to fulfill the destiny others had carved out for him.

And therein lays the lesson so many fail to heed.Each of us, I think, has three selves.One is who we are.The second is who others see.The third is who we think the others see.One of the continuing priority tasks of a leader is to prioritize the three.Frankly, the order in which you place the second and the third self doesn’t much matter, provided that the first is always first.

Like most people, leaders like to read their own favorable press clippings.They want to live up to the glowing comments that others make in public or even that they perceive that others are making in private.But a leader’s top priority is to know first who he or she really is.

Leaders, like all people, have deficiencies.They have to be willing to scrutinize those weaknesses in the cold light of day and find others who will compensate for them.It sounds perverse, but to be a strong leader, one must unflinchingly acknowledge weakness.

That, I think, is the leadership lesson that Alex Rodriguez placed in stark relief.