All-star leadership Featured

8:01pm EDT August 31, 2011
All-star leadership

In June, a crowd gathered at the Firestone Country Club to hear former

Cleveland Indians baseball player André Thornton talk at the Smart Business Power Players Akron luncheon.

But the former two-time All-Star wasn’t talking about his 21 years playing professional baseball but rather the past four years of business experience as president and CEO of ASW Global LLC, a supply chain management company.

Thornton has gained a reputation of leading with faith-based values, integrity and humility.

“It’s not hard to be humble,” he says. “It depends on what you’re measuring yourself against. I can measure myself against someone I think I stand higher than and feel very good about myself, but the standard on which I measure myself, that has a lot to do with my faith, is one who is holy. It doesn’t take much to be humble when I know the thoughts that go through my mind. That keeps your feet on the ground.”

He says it’s easier to be humble when you recognize your limitations, which is something he learned from being a professional athlete.

“You recognize what you can do and what you can’t do,” he says. “I have no qualms about what I can’t do, finding someone who can help me do that and not feel diminished. I think you have to recognize that more than anything else. I’ve run across a lot of arrogant people in business and athletics, but there is nobody who can do it all. I don’t care how smart they are — they all need help. If you keep that in mind, it also helps to keep your feet grounded.”

Getting a good team is one of four keys he’s found to success in business. In fact, it took a year and a half to bring together the right team when he bought the company in 2007.

The second is to make sure they have the right strategy. The strategy has to fit the capabilities they have now and the opportunities to compete against larger players.

“It was vital to do that if we want to perform at the level we want to perform at,” he says. “We’re competing against some very capable companies around the world. … Nobody’s going to give us any business. They might like the fact that I hit some home runs, but nobody’s giving us business because I hit home runs. They may have opened the door to see who’s outside, but they haven’t given business.”

The third key is finding access to the right resources, whether that’s talent, equipment, financing or whatever.

“You have to have access to those resources, and you have to have the kind of network that if we don’t have it available to us at our fingertips today, we know how to get it shortly,” Thornton says.

The fourth key is you have to provide the kind of rewards and motivation that keep your people excited about coming back every day. He says to let people know that you can’t win without them.

“No matter what I think of my own talents, I can’t get the job done without them,” he says.

If you don’t encourage people, recognize them for their achievements and literally say, “Thank you for doing a good job,” people won’t feel appreciated.

“When you go to organizations that are struggling, people are murmuring, there’s backbiting, all those kinds of things; you’ll find the underlying thing is many of them don’t feel appreciated for what they do,” he says.

When he focuses on all four of these elements, then he knows he’s on the right track.

He says, “Those are the things that, for me, I have to make sure are happening within our organization because that gives us the chance to be successful within the playing field we operate in.”

How to reach: ASW Global LLC, (888) 363-8492 or