But make no mistake, the former Rose Bowl MVP and quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams is the leader of Riordan, Lewis & Haden, a firm founded by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan more than 20 years ago that invests in growing middle-market businesses. Haden has taken his success on the field he led his University of Southern California Trojans to three Rose Bowls and two national championships into the boardroom as a member of the boards of two publicly-held and four privately-held companies.
Haden provides insight into the qualities of a leader and the role leaders play in business.
Leaders carry themselves a different way. I don’t think there’s necessarily one way of leading other than you treat people with respect.
That’s my underlying principle; no matter who the people are that you’re trying to deal with or trying to lead, you treat them with respect.
We’ve all encountered yellers and screamers. Certainly I did in athletics with coaches, but most people don’t respond well to that; they don’t maximize their performance. That doesn’t mean a leader can’t be forceful and tough. I’ve seen people who (do that) and consider themselves leaders. I don’t consider them leaders. I consider them in charge.
Leadership means moving an organization, whether it’s an athletic team or a company, in a direction that’s good for all whether that’s your team or your shareholders.
Sometimes people confuse leadership with authority. To me, they’re two different things.
A position of authority doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a leader. You have to have had positive experiences leading organizations, leading people. At my firm, we want to invest in people that have led organizations effectively before.
There are a whole bunch of venture capitalists that are betting on people for the first time or technology for the first time. In my world of private equity, it’s completely different. We’re looking for leaders that have been there and done that. In really good leaders, it is innate.
It may be honed by being trained by others or observing others.
You have to have a strategic vision. When (former San Francisco 49ers quarterback) Joe Montana was playing, his vision was that he was going to score on the last possession, and all his teammates believed him.
He elevated the play of the players around him maybe 20 percent. It’s the same thing with leaders of companies. They’re smart. They’re passionate.
They attract and retain talented people. They communicate well. That’s all part of this strategic vision, the leadership qualities that great CEOs and great athletes have.
A leader has great integrity. A leader asks as much of herself or himself as she does of others. You just can’t be demanding of all the people that serve you. You’ve got to be working just as hard as you’re asking other people to work.
Leaders have great vision. They know how to get their organization from here to there. Surely, there are going to be challenges, and they don’t have all the answers. But somehow, they’re going to navigate those challenges and get there.
You have a constant vision of what you need to do to make it to the next goal. In athletics, it’s a little easier to talk about than it is in business. You have this very firm strategic view of where you’re trying to go. You can’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going.
Knowing that, being convinced of it, being confident of it in taking your team or your company there is critical.
It’s much more difficult being a leader during the bad times. That’s why in athletics, I respect guys who have gone through so many challenges before their successes.
(Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback) Terry Bradshaw was one of them. He was booed and criticized for years before he won a Super Bowl championship. He had the mental toughness and tenacity to hang in there, stay and put up with it, and then ultimately lead and win four Super Bowls.
That’s the same with great CEOs. Those that have been able to navigate the tough times in business, they’ve had to downsize a little bit. Laying people off is very difficult. But to keep the company alive, meet the payroll and ultimately get over the hump and build a growing interesting enterprise those are the leaders that you salute.
If you can’t (communicate), you’re never going to lead the company. You’re never going to have the organization understand your strategic vision and how you’re going to get there. Being a good communicator is critical for a leader.
A strength is knowing one’s weaknesses, either to make them stronger or to avoid them in situations if you can. Really effective people know they do have weaknesses and try to (make them) better.
It’s life-long learning. It’s always trying to improve. People notice that, too. People in organizations notice if you’re trying to be a more effective leader, work on your weaknesses.
I have a lot more confidence in my judgment than I probably did 10 years ago. Confidence can be an uplifting thing for an organization.
You can be confident and be dead wrong, but generally confidence is a good quality and a good trait. And over time, because of the experiences I’ve had in boardrooms, on particular boards helping CEOs navigate the issues in their business, has given me a great deal more confidence to help lead organizations.
The leadership qualities of the CEOs of the companies that we’re looking to invest in is critical. It’s often the ‘go, no-go’ invest decision.
If you don’t have a passionate leader, a leader that can motivate people, a leader that really knows his business knows where he makes money and where he loses money if he doesn’t know how to lead that organization to the Promised Land, that’s not the right kind of investor for us. Leadership skills are a very important due diligence item for us as we look at investments.
You don’t have to have a strong ego to be a great leader. Oftentimes, having a very strong ego blinds you. It can be a detriment to leadership.
Leadership is a hard thing to define because people do it different ways. Leaders have their own styles of how they’re going to get from here to there, but strong egos, in my personal experience, sometimes can really hurt an organization.
It’s important to keep moving forward, but if you don’t learn from mistakes, you’re a fool. I’ve made mistakes as an investor, and I hope I’ve learned from them.
I’ve been doing this 20 years now. I’ve made mistakes as an athlete; I hope I’ve learned from them, didn’t repeat them.
HOW TO REACH: Riordan, Lewis & Haden, (213) 229-8500 or www.rlhinvestors.com