Winning Teams: From New York Yankees to Navy SEALs

At Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s recent SinaInnovations conference, two leaders with unparalleled success in building and managing winning teams delivered keynote addresses before standing-room only crowds in Stern Auditorium: Joseph Torre, the legendary former manager (and now Baseball Hall of Fame inductee) of the New York Yankees, and Rear Admiral Scott P. Moore, Deputy Commander Naval Special Warfare command (Navy SEALS).

“The one thing I learned during my career as a player and as a manager is that you can’t do it alone,” said Mr. Torre, now Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations, Major League Baseball, who led the Yankees to four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000.

Mr. Torre said he was “lucky to inherit a team of solid young players who wanted to win. If players joined from another ball club they would say, ‘where do I fit in?’” During his years as a manager, he read many motivational books, and the phrase that resonated with him was, “Players win games, but teams win championships.”

In special operations, successful teamwork can mean the difference between life and death. Rear Admiral Moore, a Navy SEAL for more than 30 years, has directed at least 1,000 dangerous special operation missions in the last decade, including the rescue of hostages in Afghanistan and Somalia. Leadership, said Rear Admiral Moore, is about communication and keeping teams focused. Trust, he said, makes teams effective.

“It takes months of constant training and multiple skill sets to gain an absolute level of trust within a team,” he added. “That happens when everyone feels good about doing anything that’s assigned, and they all have an extremely high level of confidence that they’ll solve whatever the problem is.”

Other important aspects to building a solid team, he said, include advancing the team’s capability as far as it can go, empowering lower-level leaders, and exposing the team’s weaknesses instead of showcasing its strengths. This, he said, “takes a little guts, and it takes leaders who will allow failure,” but it advances a team’s problem-solving capabilities.

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