Sports Leadership Lessons

Powerful Insights and Wisdom from Top Middle-Market CEOs: The Early Years – Mentors, Coaches, and the Lessons They Taught Me

In Leadership Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 150 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!

One of my favorite things about interviewing our guests is hearing their backstories: Where were they born? What was their family life like? Who were their mentors? Were they entrepreneurs or business-oriented at a young age

For many kids, childhood activities revolve around school, activities like sports or music or theater, and maybe a job or two. I love hearing from my guests how coaches and teachers impacted their lives because it illustrates how impactful leaders in any setting are. Just taking an interest in our younger generations and supporting them and helping them grow can have such far-reaching impacts. 

Sports and Lifelong Lessons

Sean Taylor, CEO of Up To Par Management and Taylor Hospitality, loves golf and has since he was a kid. He remembers getting up early in the morning in the summer; ”If I got there before seven a.m., it was three dollars. And if I got there after 7:00 a.m., it was five dollars” to play at his local municipal golf course, and then working at a driving range until midnight, and then getting up and doing it all again the next day. That love of golf has stuck with him his entire life–from being a player, to a coach, to working for and managing golf resorts–and informs how he manages and leads. 

Mike Capone, CEO of Qlik, played Pop Warner football as a kid which he describes as being “great character building,” and something he really loved to do. For him, the memories he holds aren’t just about playing the game, it was who came to watch and coach: his father was “an amazing businessman” who traveled a lot for work, but “he always found time to coach [Mike’s] football games and basketball games. Somehow he’d always get home … when [there was] a big game he’d always be there.” His dad showing up for him, Mike says, is something he still thinks about today, especially since he’s now a father himself.

Lessons From Teachers and Coaches

Teachers and coaches can also have an enormous impact on future leadership. I bet most of us can think of a teacher or coach who said something or did something that we’ll never forget and helped us to be better people or inspired us to pursue a dream.

In his days of playing Pop Warner football, Mike remembers a coach who was an NYPD detective, and whose coaching was tough but taught him to “get back out on the field and dust yourself off and play the game,” which, Mike notes, “is a good tool to have.” Learning resilience at a young age is so important, and many of the podcast guests share how much they appreciate the mentors and influences in their younger years who taught them that skill. 

John Garrett, CEO of Community Impact Newspaper, remembers a debate teacher in high school who mentored him and left a lasting impression. “I remember at the end of the semester; he wrote me this note that just stood with me. It said, ‘Never tire of doing what is right,’” a lesson John has never forgotten. He notes the power of “just reaching out to [kids] and showing them some love and that they matter,” something Jamie Lagarde, CEO of Sedera, also talked about during his episode. As someone who has always loved math and science, Jamie remembers a teacher who helped him learn how he could develop that love into something bigger. Mr. Metzinger, Jamie says, “brought math to life and in a way that I could see how the things I was learning there could really solve problems.” Jamie goes on to say that he would give Mr. Metzinger “a lot of the credit” for his following the “path of engineering and science and computer science.” 

Investing in the next generation is so important, and these stories from leaders who have climbed the ladder to the corner office illustrate how one person or experience can have a poignant, lasting effect. 

For more CEO stories and tales of the early years, find the whole archive here, on iTunes, or subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

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