Traits Of Good Leaders
When I came to Florida in 1986 to help build the Orlando Magic from the ground up, one of the earliest supporters of our efforts was Jacob Stuart, then executive vice president of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce. Jacob is a physically imposing man with a dynamic, upbeat personality. He came alongside our efforts early on and was a wonderful coach and door-opener for me. We couldn't have built this dream without him.
In September 1986, I led a delegation from Orlando to the NBA owners' meeting in Phoenix. Accompanying me were two key investors, the Hewitt brothers, Jimmy and Bobby, accountant Stewart Crane, and Jacob Stuart. Six cities were vying for potential expansion franchises. Each city would get a chance to make a thirty-minute oral presentation to all of the NBA owners as to why it should get the nod. I have never been more focused in my life. I felt the future of central Florida weighing on my shoulders.
The other members of the delegation were there for moral support, but I would do the talking. Thousands of jobs, millions of dollars, worldwide publicity, and the future of the region were riding on what I would say during that brief pitch.
I didn't sleep the night before the presentation. I was keyed up all night long. I was still keyed up as the delegation was ushered into the room to face the panel of NBA owners. We handed out our white three-ring binders printed with the words "Orlando Believes in Magic!" The binders contained our marketing data, financial projections, architectural renderings of the arena, newspaper clippings, and more.
But I knew it was passion and persuasion, not charts and graphs, that would determine our fate. This was the moment – and I seized it. I launched into my pitch, speaking with every ounce of energy and enthusiasm in my being. I told stories about the people in our community and how all of central Florida was in an absolute tizzy over NBA basketball. I told them how the people of Orlando were so eager to see the Magic become a reality that they had already purchased 14,046 season ticket reservations – even though there was as yet no franchise, no arena, and no team!
As I spoke, I was "in the zone." I delivered that presentation at the absolute maximum of my abilities. When I had finished, I felt great – wrung out, but great. I did it! It was over! And from the expressions around the room, I was sure it had gone over well. (One of the owners was my friend Norm Sonju of the Dallas Mavericks; he later told me that the owners were impressed that I did the entire talk without notes – but I was so passionate about this dream that I could have delivered that pitch in my sleep!)
After my thirty-minute pitch, our delegation headed for a session with the media. Each of the groups representing the six prospective cities had to face questioning from national sportswriters. As I walked into the media room, Jacob Stuart ran up to me, seized me by the shoulders, and with his nose practically touching mine, he barked, "Stay up! Stay up! You can't let down, Pat! Stay up!"
Perhaps Jacob could see in my posture that I had started to slump inside. I had been so focused on my presentation to the owners that I was just relieved to have it over and done. But Jacob knew that the media session was every bit as important as the session with the owners. He knew I needed to maintain my extreme focus. So he literally grabbed me by the shoulders, got right in my face, and poured the energy of his personality into my weary, sleep-deprived brain: "Stay up! Stay up!"
Instantly, I sprang back to life. I was revitalized. And as I stepped up onto the platform to face those reporters, I felt the energy come back into my footsteps, my limbs, my posture, my facial expression, and my voice. And throughout that session, I kept hearing those words in my mind – Stay up! Stay up! And the media session went just as well as the pitch to the owners – thanks to the extreme focus of Jacob Stuart.
The city of Orlando received very favorable press coverage, and in April 1987, when the owners made their decision, Orlando got a thumbs-up! Our dream had come true! The moral of this story is simple: focus – and finish strong!
As you reach for your dreams, don't let your guard down. Don't let your passion run hot and cold. Never stop focusing on today, never stop focusing on tomorrow. Maintain your self-discipline. Hold fast to your commitment. Be courageous and confident. Stay up! Finish strong!
That's what Jacob Stuart was saying to me, and it was good advice. In fact, his words may have spelled the difference between success and disaster. What if I had gone out on that platform to face the press feeling spent and depleted? What if I had lost my focus at the very moment the national media turned its spotlight on me? We could have lost everything we had worked for in that moment.
But Jacob Stuart saved the day. He had just the right words to bring me back into focus. To this day, whenever I'm tempted to let down my guard, I can hear Jacob Stuart say, "Stay up! Stay up!" To learn more, you can check out Traits Of Good Leaders.