Cleveland Indians father-son duo talk leadership style


Ron and Mark Shapiro follow a strategy of mutual respect in negotiations


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Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro and his father Ron advise student leaders to stick to their beliefs in negotiation.

Photo by Andrew Dierkes


At last night’s Wharton Leadership Lecture in Huntsman Hall, College freshman Garrett Breeden got to meet his role model, Ron Shapiro, for the second time — 10 years after he jokingly signed a baseball card for Shapiro in case he ever became “rich and famous.”

This spontaneity and enthusiasm to speak with young people perfectly characterizes the father-son duo of Ron and Mark Shapiro — chairman of Shapiro Negotiations Institute and president of the Cleveland Indians, respectively.

During their joint lecture, both emphasized that the key to successful negotiation is a values-based leadership style.

Prominent figures in the world of sports, the Shapiros explained the basics of their leadership style through the philosophy of the “3 P’s”: prepare, probe and propose.

According to the Shapiros, the “prepare” phase is the most important of all. A negotiation isn’t what you see in the movies, with men in suits sitting across from each other at conference tables.

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By Andrew Dierkes

Ron Shapiro (left) and his son, Cleveland Indians president Mark, advise student leaders to stick to their beliefs in negotiation.

The action, they said, is really in the back office, especially now that there are so many statistics available for every pitch or hit, most of the work comes down to analyzing and applying the information at hand.

Being prepared, however, also means a readiness to lead one’s team through rough times by holding fast to a core set of values and beliefs.

“People aren’t going to buy into a hat, a uniform or a mascot,” Mark said, “but what they will buy into is a set of values, a set of beliefs that make up the team.”

He added, “The leader’s role is to make sure that everybody feels valued and a part of the team.”

For the “probe” phase, it is most important to ask questions and listen attentively. The Shapiros agreed that a leader’s ego can become a “block” between his mouth and ears, and that the best negotiators are always the best listeners.

The Shapiros’ idea that negotiation is built on mutual respect was evident in their presentation.

Third-year School of Design student David Tao said he “really appreciated the father-son relationship that [the Shapiros] displayed, because it really shows how important respect is in carrying forward negotiation.”

Rounding out their personal philosophy, the Shapiros spoke about the proper way to “propose.” They believe that it is often difficult not to fall into the trap of only making the best possible transaction — a strategy that many negotiators are trained to follow.

Looking only at the dollar signs, they said, can lead to two possible outcomes. On the one hand, you can win a deal and destroy the possibility of another. On the other, you can create a win-win situation that allows for new, trust-based relationships to flourish.

As Mark explained, “Ultimately the latter is the better approach, because you can’t afford to burn a bridge. You can’t choose who you make deals with.”

After all, businesses are built on networks and opportunities, not just individuals.

“When you’re blessed with the opportunities that I’ve had,” Ron said, “you want to give others the same opportunities … to talk to young people, to inspire them.”

He also mentioned that both he and Mark live by the famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s motto: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

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