Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

I’ll Have Another and the Triple Crown Quest

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The quest for the Triple Crown is on. Big time. I’ll Have Another is in the hunt for the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing, the most elusive championship in all of sports.

It’s been 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Since 1875, only eleven horses have earned that honor, racing within a short span of five weeks to victory in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.

Now the stables of J. Paul Reddam with trainer Dan O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez have positioned I’ll Have Another to win this coveted crown, joining legends like War Admiral, Citation, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew in the pantheon of champions.

I’ll Have Another has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. On June 9 the eyes of the sporting world will be on the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. Nineteen great thoroughbreds have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, only to fall short at the punishing 1.5-mile distance of Belmont—the “Test of Champions.”

I’ll Have Another beat Bodemeister in both the Derby and the Preakness, conjuring memories of Secretariat beating Sham in both these races in 1973, and of Affirmed beating Alydar in 1978. Secretariat went on to beat Sham by an incredible thirty-one lengths in the Belmont Stakes, setting a world record that stands to this day.

The sporting public in these troubled days would love to celebrate another Triple Crown winner if only to get away from the negative news of so much poor leadership in many organizations.

Triple Crown Leadership uses the metaphor of the Triple Crown to illustrate an emerging trend we applaud: the endeavor among cutting-edge organizations worldwide to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations. Citing stories and leadership practices unpacked from sixty-one organizations worldwide, plus our own experience in startups, turnarounds, NYSE companies, and nonprofits, we penned a leadership manifesto for those aspiring to the top echelons of performance with purpose.

In our book, we note just how hard it is to be excellent, and to be ethical, and to endure. The trifecta of results, integrity, and sustainability is not for the faint of heart. And so it is on the racetrack—the challenge of a lifetime for owner J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian-born PhD in philosophy and former businessman. Sadly, trainer Dan O’Neill is under scrutiny for allegedly “milkshaking” horses: giving them a blend of liquids to enhance performance. Fortunately, these allegations do not involve I’ll Have Another.

Mario Gutierrez, a humble, 25-year-old Mexican jockey who is a newcomer to these big-time races, rode brilliant races in the Derby and the Preakness, letting I’ll Have Another run his own race, holding him back behind the favorites until the final stretch, when he released the colt to win in thrilling finishes. It was all guts as Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another chased down Bodemeister in the final stretch. “This is not about me,” the jockey insisted after the Preakness, revealing a sense of his character as well as appreciation for the team effort it takes to win at that level—including horse, jockey, owner, trainer, and more. As we say, it takes a whole stable to win the Crown.

I’ll Have Another is unpretentious. He was bought as a yearling for $11,000 and snacks on cookies.  (Reminds us of Seabiscuit, also gutsy, who got his name from his penchant for snacking on crackers favored by sailors.)

Our world needs a better brand of leadership, one that builds excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—one that can win all its important races when the pressure is on. Perhaps, an ordinary horse like I’ll Have Another can inspire us on this extraordinary quest?

-Bob & Gregg Vanourek, the triple crown leaders
Twitter: @TripleCrownLead


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