The Power of Talent–a Leadership Lesson from…Harry Frazee?

In 1919, the Boston Red Sox had a star pitcher who also had home run power like no one had ever seen. He helped them win three world championships. His name was Babe Ruth. At that time they were a powerhouse in baseball–winning 5 of the first 15 World Series match-ups.

In 1920, Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, sold the rights to Babe Ruth for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan against Fenway Park where the Sox played (and still do). Ruth went on to be one of the biggest stars in sports history and played in seven more World Series for the Yankees.

The next time the Red Sox won a World Series was 2004. The single decision to sell Ruth to the Yankees, which lead to the long success drought of the Red Sox, has been called the “Curse of the Bambino.”

The Yankees, on the other hand, became one of the most successful franchises in any professional sport.

Depending on your perspective (and if you root for the Red Sox or the Yankees), consider this a cautionary or exciting tale about retaining, or acquiring, great talent.

Whether you have a true game-changer like Babe Ruth on your team or not, you have high quality talent you need to keep. And perhaps the addition of just the right new talent will change your results significantly.

What follows are three things to do to retain great talent (are you listening Red Sox?) and three ways to find and attract great talent (kudos to the Yankees).

Retaining Your Great Talent

  • Think big picture. Make sure you realize the importance of talent. Frazee sold Ruth to finance other ventures. Know that losing a person with the right skills could be a bigger blow than you realize. Ruth was replaced in the lineup–the Sox didn’t play short-handed. But the people that replaced him didn’t have the same skills and ability.
  • Build the whole team. Star players want to play on effective teams. After winning several championships, the 1919 Sox had a bad year, and Ruth’s effectiveness didn’t seem to make as big of a difference. When you build the whole team, your stars become more valuable, not less.
  • Lead effectively. This is a big bucket of skills, to be sure. But if you want to keep top talent, then or now, you need to provide a vision of a desired future; support and encourage team members and remove the obstacles in people’s way. Stars want the chance to perform at their best.

Attracting Great Talent

  • Be watching. Even if you are happy with your team, you need to be always looking for great talent. That talent could be untapped potential, or a star already in place. By watching, you will know who you can hire as your needs grow and change.
  • Always hire the right person. Hiring the right people makes a big difference, so make it a priority. If you are always watching, this job will be easier. Think about the long term here too–a little longer wait to find the right person will be worth the short-term pain of not having someone at all.
  • Lead effectively. Yep, this one gets repeated. Why? Because the best players want to play for leaders who will help them reach their potential. When you help your current team members grow, when you help your organization succeed at higher levels, the best want to be on your team.

Much more could be said about each of these items and the lists could be longer. My goal here is to get you thinking about the power of talent–and avoiding the Curse of the Bambino–and adding the right players to your team, creating it for someone else, and most of all, recognizing your pivotal role in making that happen.

© 2012 All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry and The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Reprinted with permission. Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (, a learning consulting company that helps clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. Originally published at