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Transcript: How do quiet leaders succeed? By earning respect

Montreal Canadiens’ Saku Koivu celebrates his winning goal against Tampa Bay Lightning during overtime NHL hockey action in Montreal, March, 2009.

Christinne Muschi/REUTERS

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak with Pierre Boivin who is CEO of Claridge Inc. at the Bronfman Family office here in Montreal.

When you think about Saku Koivu, who was the captain [of the Montreal Canadiens] for many years – I am Finnish as well and [also] quiet. The quiet leader – that is an interesting choice for a captain, is a quiet person. How does the quiet, the more introverted [person], lead a team?

PIERRE BOIVIN – I think Jean Béliveau did a pretty damn good job of it, and Saku was the second-longest tenure as a captain next to Jean Béliveau. These people lead by example, first and foremost. It is a style of leadership that we read and know about. They tend to be directive when it is required, and nobody knows, because they have so much respect from the room that it never gets out of the room.

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You know if you have a solid unit in a professional dressing room if nothing gets out of the room. These guys are at each other all the time; these are winners, and so if somebody is slacking off or if somebody is not pulling their weight, then they talk to each other. When they get into a crisis, they have what we call "player meetings" and that's when the leadership really needs to step up and fulfill their role, as [current Montreal Canadiens captain] Brian Gionta does now and as Saku did very well for the number of years he was captain.

A team that is well bonded, that has a high degree of respect for each other, and is a real solid unit, you never hear what is going on in the room, so we try to judge from the outside. These leaders usually play 100 per cent all the time. They tend to be more team focused than individual focused. That is the other thing with professional sports, there are individual statistics and the value of your next contract is in large part based on the numbers you put on the board – regardless of your position.

Today, there are analytics in sports that are very sophisticated and so it's not just number of minutes played, number of goals, or assists, or your plus minus point differential, there are pages and pages of statistics that the teams have on their players, and players know that. So at the end of the day, they are always thinking about [what] the value of their next contract is going to be and that can't supersede being a good team player.

KARL MOORE – But the coach has got to have the wisdom to say, 'I love your numbers, but this guy may not have all the numbers but boy without him we lose our heart.'

PIERRE BOIVIN – Every team needs to have one or two game changers. These are people who, in crunch times in the game, are going to put the puck in the net – or stop it. It could be the goaltender as many times as it is with [current goaltender] Carey [Price], as it has often been in the tradition of the Montreal Canadiens to have strong goaltenders.

But you need game changers and you need to have players that score 30 to 40 goals. And you are going to have players who score seven, eight, nine or 10, but they are also going to stop the star player on the other team more times than your top scorers are going to score. It is a balance. And so you have to be able to communicate individually with the players, you have to be able to put the right groupings together and that can vary during a season, depending on how they are playing or if they are coming back from an injury.

So you have a lot of variables in putting your roster together for a game and your pairings and that's the coach's job. Every time it is has got to be to get someone going who has been in a down period in terms of his productivity, or to make sure he is putting the right chemistry together to get the maximum out of each line and every defensive pairing.

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