Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.


One goal

Q: The Washington Capitals, longtime laggards in the NHL, are now seen by many as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. How do you take an organization from failure to dominance? How many leaders are bold enough to esentially blow up the enterprise, as owner Ted Leonsis did, and build it back up?

The Washington Capitals are a great example of a team whose outstanding executive leadership, combined with superb coaching, has produced a team that has outperformed everyone's expectations.The executive leadership is personified by Ted Leonsis, who was highly successful in a completely unrelated field, Internet service provider AOL, before becoming owner of the Caps.

After surviving a plane crash-landing in 1983, he drafted a list of 101 things to do in life and has completed many of the tasks, including owning a sports franchise.

Despite clear goals and a mind for strategic thinking, Leonsis at first was unsuccessful in reviving the Caps into a winning team. But he perservered, and found a great coach in Bruce Boudreau, who compiled a 37-17-7 rookie coaching record in 2007-08 with a team that was 6-14-1 when he inherited it.

Boudreau epitomizes the hard-working, low-key cool coach who can work with his team to achieve consistent success and optimal performances from players who are not necessarily the most renowned in the league. His coaching style matches Leonsis' thinking completely and the two are able to leverage each other's strengths.

The players have completely bought into the management and coaching approach, and consequently there is no drama on the team. At this point, no blaming or scapegoating is observed and the stars of the team are not egomaniacs. A leadership partnership, as examplified by Leonsis and Boudreau, is a very effective leadership model.

As an executive coach, I am often able to solidify an organization's leadership by partnering one leader with another, two people who complement one another and drive results that go beyond those that any one leader can create. A positive check and balance emerges that enhances overall performance and encourages a consistent and steady approach.

Because there is not one leadership personality steering the boat, the organization -- in this case, the Washington Capitals -- behave within a team environment where the histrionics of one leader don't foster or cater to individual egos.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  April 19, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  creative destruction Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Most talented is a matter of opinion but to say the Caps are overachieving relative to their talent would be stupid. The Caps are indeed well-led, but they're the President's trophy winner largely because, in spite of their weaknesses at the blue line and in goal (and they're only "weaknesses" relative to their offensive strength), they are one of the most, if not the most, talented teams in the NHL. This is not a case of leadership inspiring an undertalented team to overachieve.

Posted by: MBP1 | April 21, 2010 4:08 PM
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Obviously MBP, you are utterly unfamiliar with the NHL. Even though the Caps posted the best record this year, that doesnt make them the most talented. They are certainly lacking a strong defense first player and consistant goaltending. The Blackhawks, Sharks, Pens, and Canucks all are gushing with talent.

Posted by: Cfoer28 | April 21, 2010 1:23 PM
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Kurt Rambis didn't win titles with Shaq and Kobe, but Phil did. So "having talent" is necessary and over-rated. Ask Dan Snyder.

Posted by: kedavis | April 21, 2010 1:17 PM
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Yes the Caps today are crawling with talented #1 draft pick players, but the team Boudreau took over 2 years ago was 6-14-1 and was definitely underachieving under coach Glen Hanlon.

Leonsis would probably find it all quite flattering. I do think George McPhee deserves the credit for "finding" Boudreau and sticking with him. There are lots of sports teams crawling with talent who don't win.

Posted by: blackjack65 | April 21, 2010 11:41 AM
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Obviously, Ms. Bianco-Mathis is utterly unfamiliar with the Caps, who, as the most talented team in the NHL (yes, Virginia, they are indeed the most renowned in the league), can hardly be described as overachieving underdogs. Perhaps an "executive coach" would be well advised to have a clue about the subject matter before commenting.

Posted by: MBP1 | April 21, 2010 10:42 AM
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