…over the long haul. It is brutally hard to do, and especially so in our world of immediate reward. However there are some organizations that have proven to be at the very top of their industry. Being good every now and again is one thing, but to do it more often than not for over 100 years, well that is the St. Louis Cardinals.
11 World Series Championships, 18 National League Pennants, 20 League MVP’s, 4 Triple Crown Winners, 3 Cy Young winners, 6 Rookie of the Year winners, countless Hall of Famers, and tops in league attendance for decades…all in a small market. The only franchise with a more extensive history and record…the Yankees.
A few years ago we looked at the Steelers, and with the NLCS starting tonight, it only seemed logical to spend a few minutes looking at the Cardinals.
Vision. The organization has a history of excellence and remains committed to the pursuit of excellence…over the long haul. To that end, the Cardinals under Branch Rickey pioneered the farm system, were leaders in leveraging radio to expand their brand in the 1930’s, embracing integration in the 50’s and 60’s, playing “Whiteyball” in the AstroTurf era of the 80’s, to building power hitting teams in the 90’s “longball” era. They see the trends, get ahead of the competition, adapt to the market, and lead change. They evolve but do not lose sight of the core principles of excellence throughout the organization.
Winning Attitude. Not necessarily just about winning, but certainly about always being committed to being the best possible team. Winning is an attitude, just as the pursuit of excellence is an attitude.
Organization. Though it is the team on the field, the reality is that there is a massive organization that enables the team to perform. The talent scouts, the minor league system, the ball park, the trainers, the managers, coaches, front office and players, they are all part of the organization and they all matter. It is about the sum of the parts, not the individual parts.
Leadership. From the very top of the organization, to the field and into the locker room…leadership matters. The Cardinals have maintained very steady ownership and leadership throughout their history. As with any organization, things change, but a quick look at the organizational history reveals consistent leadership and ownership.
Culture and Consistency. It is not about flash. It is not about the individual. It is all about the team. The name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back (the Cardinals logo has barely changed in the last 100 years). It is about the profession and the game. The individual is subordinated to the team, to the sport and even the community. The Cardinals have a long history of never allowing one person to become greater than the team. Sometimes it was rough (Curt Flood), unpopular (trading Albert), but always it was done for the best of the team.
Clearly no organization is perfect, and both the Cardinals and Steelers have had their issues, but there is no denying they are both at the top of their industry. Like any business, they have periods of great success as well as periods of struggle, but their overall trajectory has always been up. Their achievements are undeniable, and a great part of their success rests with consistency. They have a system, a culture, an organization and a leadership team that is consistent in message and vision.
They know who they are, they know what works for them, and they hold to their core values. They do not chase the latest fad, the hot candidate, the latest leadership trend or pop culture phenomena. Though they stand at the top of their respective industries, neither organization is known as spendthrifts. In the end, both the Steelers and Cardinals reflect their towns, their fans, and their values. Interesting really…Pittsburgh and St. Louis are sort of “old school, basic” cities…seems those ideas are fundamental to long-term success.