One of my most important roles as President of Sally Beauty was in leadership. When I started to fashion my style of leadership in the company I thought of Gordie. That’s not unusual; I think of him and hear him talking to me almost every day. The ideas he implanted in our hearts live on.
Here is the most graphic example I can think of to demonstrate this.
I was coaching my son’s 12-year old baseball team. We were playing a key game and we had a 2–1 lead going into the top of the sixth, the last inning. Our opponent was batting with the bases loaded and two out. The batter swung and dibbled one in front of the plate. It looked like we had won the game. Our catcher, Austin Smith, one of our best players, a great kid and team leader, pounced on the ball and had an easy throw to first to seal the victory. All of a sudden his throw sailed over the first baseman’s head and rolled forever down the right field line. All four runners scored and we went into the bottom of the sixth trailing by 3 runs.
As we were getting ready to bat I saw the little catcher all by himself at the end of the bench. He kept his mask on, probably because he didn’t want his teammates to see him crying. I knew I had to be like Gordie. Should I approach him now or wait till after the game? I muttered to myself, “Help me, Gordie; what would you do?”
Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what to say, I knew I had to try to comfort him somehow. As I took a step toward him I saw my son, Michael, sit down next to Austin. He almost whispered to the distraught catcher, “Austin, so what, you made an error, we all make errors, but now we need you. You’re our best hitter.” He handed Austin his bat. “Here, we need this. We need you to hit for us. Let’s win this game.”
The catcher slowly lifted his mask off and took the bat from Michael. He smiled at my son, jumped up and started cheering for his teammates.
We started a rally. We scored two runs with two outs and had runners on second and third. Up came Austin. He had a spring in his step. After he looked over at Michael with a smile brimming with confidence, he lined a shot into left field and both runs scored. We won the game.
I gathered the kids for a short meeting as I usually do. I praised them for a wonderful game and told them when our next practice would be. I then asked them if they learned anything from this game. The little catcher almost screamed, “Never give up, Coach.”
His comment gave me a chill.
Gordie taught us that we never lost a game; sometimes we ran out of innings, but we would never give up. My son had passed that message on to our catcher. Somehow I had passed onto Michael what Gordie would have said and done, and then he passed it on to Austin.
It was one of my proudest moments as a father.