Ken Kendrick, the owner and managing general partner of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, talked to a packed house Jan. 22 at the Terry Leadership Speaker Series, which also is designated one of the university’s Signature Lectures.
Since 2004, Kendrick has overseen day-to-day operations of the Diamondbacks. He also has helped to change the face of downtown Phoenix as a principal in the development of CityScape, Arizona’s largest commercial/retail real estate development.
At the Terry event, he spoke about the values that guide his decisions, the leadership challenges of professional sports and why he enjoys entrepreneurship.
“Leadership needs to be different in different settings, and baseball is the most unusual of the settings because it’s both a business and entertainment,” Kendrick said. “So the approach you take there is different from my early days when I was an entrepreneur and founded an early technology company. The style you adopt in that kind of setting is a very much more of a hands-on approach to leadership than you take in a large organization like the Diamondbacks.”
During his tenure, the team has twice won the National League West Division title and eliminated more than $200 million of debt. But his successes weren’t always easy.
“The thing you learn quickly is even though you thought you knew a lot about the sport, even though you were always a fan and you went to all the games and thought you understood it, you really don’t. You have to learn it,” Kendrick said. “And in terms of how you operate and how you lead, you really have to lead through others. You have to pick the very best people you can find, you have to give them a lot of freedom and you have to trust what they do.”
Despite the differences in organizations, Kendrick said his leadership values remained consistent across organizations and industries.
“I think everything you do in business ought be built around integrity,” he said. “That’s a word that’s not absolute in its definition. It’s relative.”