Sportscaster Craig Sager’s recent passing made me think about what made him so special and unique– in part because of his successful business style. “There will never be another Craig Sager,” his boss at Turner said, and that was an understatement.
Inside sports and beyond, people knew him and he was well-liked for his personality and professionalism. So what was his secret?
This topic reminds me of my tennis coach, who always wanted his players to have what he called a “weapon” or a signature. When the tournament draw was revealed, my coach wanted opponents to see our names and instantly dread our weapon. “Ugh, she has a huge serve,” would be a successful message. With this in mind, all of us worked hard to develop our signature style.
Call it a style or label, everyone has one. Craig’s medium was TV, so his visual style the candy-striped jackets to psychedelic ties—was what everyone saw first. His personal style carried into the rest of life. It influenced his response to his leukemia diagnosis, as Esquire pointed out:
A singular spirit with the fashion sense to match, Sager was as well known for his bold style as his work on the NBA sidelines. “Whatever I might’ve imagined a terminal diagnosis would do to my spirit, it’s summoned quite the opposite—the greatest appreciation for life itself,” Sager said during his acceptance speech for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2016 ESPYs. “So I will never give up. And I will never give in. I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of me. I will live my life full of love and full of fun. It’s the only way I know how.”
… Thanks for the never taking yourself or your clothes too seriously, Craig. You’ll be sorely missed.
As a sports agent, I observed many successful styles from a distance (like Craig’s) and up close (my clients, who were star athletes, coaches and broadcasters).
There was the intense warmth of Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who had the drive to keep playing no matter what role he was assigned by the Atlanta Braves, and the big-hearted nature of always giving back to his community.
Or the loyal visionary Tom Izzo, who is so great at giving his players his time and the responsibility and support for creating their collective destiny at Michigan State.
Peyton Manning made his signature style his relentless work ethic and leadership on and off the field. Dick Vitale’s signature style is his high energy and unbridled enthusiasm, wrapped up into signature phrases like “diaper dandy” or “it’s awesome baby!” as his bald head turns bright red and a few veins pop.
But their successful business styles aren’t simply about being bold or being different. Neither was Craig’s.
The key is authenticity.
Your Successful Style
When Craig put on a jacket, he owned that look and was proud of it. I doubt he even thought much about it because it was so true to his personality and spirit.
It is your sincere actions and appearance that reflect the truest you. It is what you don’t think about as being different from anyone else because it is simply the way you move through work and life.
Authenticity is natural and never put on. It is like breathing.
Craig and everyone who has a successful business style know exactly who they are and what their story is. They aren’t adopting the style from outside them as much as they are expressing the style that is already inside them. I like the way Craig told the story about some of his clothing and how it started out as something else. A successful business style depends on creativity; it’s not a copy of someone else.
To embrace authenticity, Craig and other sports people and leaders with successful business styles understand something else. They know there are critics and people who will not understand them. Who won’t get it. And that’s OK with them because they are fearless. (I’ll be writing a whole lot more about that in 2017!)
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Craig Sager’s crazy looking jackets and zest for basketball gave him a memorable successful business style. He embraced authenticity and fearlessness. That’s a great lesson for all of us as we pursue the goals and work that uniquely fit our talents.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her e-learning courses spark both personal growth for individuals and corporate development for organizations. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.