Yogi Berra: Leadership Tips from the ‘Wisest Fool’

Yogi Berra_1956

Regardless of whether you were a fan of the Yankees or the Mets, you knew Yogi Berra. We all did. We related to him.  As a catcher, batter, coach, go-getter and indelible character, he became a legend in his own time. And he did it with humor, common sense, and more than his fair share of passion for the game.


He may have been a ball player and manager, but his leadership style caught the attention of us all.


Some of you weren’t even born when this scrawny, not-so-good-looking kid from St. Louis, dropped out of high school to pursue his dream to become a ballplayer. I heard stories about his early years from my father, and he created quite a stir, both on the field, and off. He wasn’t your typical sports hero.


In fact, the once-popular Colliers Magazine wrote, “With a body that only an anthropologist could love, the 185-pound Berra could pass easily as a … Neanderthal…”


But whether or not you rooted for his team, memorized his stats or knew his coaching record, everyone knew his reputation for mangling the English language.


Regardless of his tremendous accomplishments, he’s left quite a legacy of Yogi-isms that we in the small business world can learn from.


Why do they remain so popular?  Because not only were they funny, we understood what he ‘really’ meant – and there was wisdom in that. No matter how he screwed up his words, there was always a degree of truth in them.


So let’s see what this Hall of Famer and the man “The Economist” once named “The Wisest Fool of the Past 50 Years” can teach us about good leadership.


  1. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Don’t be afraid of risk. Use it as an opportunity.
  2. “You can observe a lot by just watching.” It’s how the best strategies are built.
  3. “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Never give up.
  4. “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Time to rethink if you find yourself making the same mistake twice.
  5. “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.” Everyone has those days but it’s not the end of the world. Just push through.
  6. “How can you think and hit at the same time?” Single-tasking is more effective.
  7. “I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better. If you make ‘getting better’ your goal, you can’t really lose.
  8. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Plan your goals with the end in mind.
  9. “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” Strategy and perspective.
  10. “I can see how he (Sandy Koufax) won twenty-five games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.” Maybe he won 25 because he lost 5.  There are lessons in everything.
  11. “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.” You don’t need to know everything to succeed.
  12. “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?” Mistakes are human.  Forgive yourself and move on.
  13. “If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.” Always tell the truth, even if it’s admitting what you don’t know.
  14. “Take it with a grin of salt.”  Don’t take everything personally.
  15. “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go. Know when to make your move.” Timing is everything.
  16. “If I didn’t make it in baseball, I won’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.” When you love what you do, it’s never work.
  17. “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”  Nothing is, you know.


Just remember, you might not hit one out of the park every time you’re up to bat, but whether you’re on the playing field or at the office, if you remember to take some advice from Yogi, I’m certain you’ll take a better shot.



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