If you a hockey fan in British Columbia, there is one name that comes to mind when the word “leadership” comes up in conversation….
That’s Trevor Linden, scoring game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers.
And if you are a soccer fan in British Columbia, there is one name that comes to mind when talking about “leadership.”
Bob Lendarduzzi, scoring in the 1979 NASL semi-final when the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated the New York Cosmos, the famous “village by the sea” victory.
Linden is now the President of the Vancouver Canucks, and Lenarduzzi is now President of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
LISTEN: Lenarduzzi and Linden talk leadership from the locker room to the board room
How do they lead?
But while both have proven their leadership both in and out of the locker room – how do they see themselves in that role?
For Linden, a big part is to lead by doing.
“A lot of times the strongest leaders I played with were guys who didn’t say a lot. They led by how they acted, you know, what they did, their commitment, what they did when they showed up to work. That’s leadership. Everyone thinks leadership is the rah rah speech, the “Go Get ‘Em” thing, but it’s really about your actions,” he says.
But Linden says that’s just half of the equation. He says he learned the other half from legendary former coach Pat Quinn: Respect.
“Respecting your people, respecting your teammates and you know, Pat was amazing for being able to show the same amount of respect for the security guard at the Pacific Coliseum and his number one centreman. He never treated those two any different and that was special to see and that I think is an important thing that all great teams have different people in different roles,” he says.
Linden says that attitude gets results on-ice. And it gets them in the board room too.
“We talk about roles in hockey: first line, second line, third line, powerplay, penalty killer, but in any office situation or any business, you have people who play different roles and everyone of those is important. Some are bigger than others but it’s trusting those people to do their job and empowering them to do their work, but also respecting that their work is important to the final product,” he says.
It’s an opinion Lenarduzzi shares. He says for him, leadership is about setting an example first and foremost.
“The segment are the guys who are verbal and females for that matter, that communicate what it is they’re looking for. And then there’s the other that I think I fall into that category, your leadership is demonstrated by how you perform. And by always giving 100%. By in making a mistake you come back and you want to rectify that mistake. That, for me, is more what I’m about, than I think the more vocal leader,” he says.
So, can leadership be taught?
Trevor Linden his experience proves it can, and in fact the principle is crucial to the fabric of the team.
“Obviously, one of the things we believed here with the team, the Vancouver Canucks, is that we want to surround our young players with leaders and people who consistently have good habits and do things the right way. That’s teaching. I do believe that for people who don’t have the experience of playing sport or being that environment, I mean, you can learn the principles of leadership through educational situations. And I think sometimes you get thrown into the fire and you learn the hard way, and there’s other times where you can learn,” he says.
For Lenarduzzi, there’s no question leadership can be learned, though he says sometimes you have to look inside to find the teacher.
“In spite of the fact I lack in a formal education, I’m a big believer that if you know what it is that you want to do as you’re growing up, you educate yourself formally as much as possible. After that, when you get into the real world, I do believe that’s going to get you there,” he says.
He adds part of learning to be a leader is being quick on your feet, and ready to learn new things when you’re thrust into the moment.
“You’re going to need to be street smart and understand that academically all the things that you learned in school will give you a very good base but beyond that, you’re going to be faced with situations that you would have never anticipated,” he says.
LISTEN: Trevor Linden and Bob Lenarduzzi, full interview
So, what would Trevor Linden say to a young person, who just was given their very first leadership role at work?
“The foundational things don’t change in a leadership position,” he says.
“I think that the true sign of a leader is someone who wouldn’t ask someone to do something that they wouldn’t do themselves. And a great leader to me is someone who is willing get in the trenches and do whatever is necessary, that needs to be done, for the team to be successful,” says Linden.
“When you think about teamwork, a leader is not someone who is standing on the sidelines ordering people around, it’s someone whose got their sleeves rolled up and is willing to dig in when it needs it and providing that direction for his team.”
Bob Lenarduzzi says someone in their first supervisory role needs to keep their eye on the big picture, and not let power go to their head.
“My message to them would be, don’t abuse the position you’ve been provided. And by that, I would suggest – don’t feel like you have to boss people. What I often see is people that have been put in that position feel like they need to be verbally illustrating that they’re in charge,” he says.
“You got the position because someone saw something in you that for them, suggested you could now take the next step. So, whatever principles you applied to getting that opportunity, continue to apply those principles,” he says.
And above all, Lenarduzzi says, remember to keep talking to your team.
“Communicate. Don’t assume that people know what ‘s expected. Even if it’s basic, make sure you take the time to communicate what it is you’re looking for. And then in your communication make sure that when somebody does something well, that you verbalize that. And if you can verbalize that in front of others as well, so that people realize, “Hey, when I do something he or she’s going to recognize that”.
You can argue whether Trevor Linden or Bob Lenarduzzi are brilliant at leading their respective NHL and MLS teams.
But what can’t be argued is their leadership.