Basketball great Shaquille O’Neal elicited two standing ovations from a packed crowd at MHI’s Modex 2022 in Atlanta on Wednesday at the closing keynote session for the industry association’s biennial supply chain expo.
O’Neal ribbed moderator Mitch Mac Donald, DC Velocity’s group editorial director emeritus, and regaled the audience with stories about his upbringing and basketball career while also providing leadership advice.
In particular, O’Neal credits his success to the foundation laid by his parents.
“Having a drill sergeant as a father meant that you were never allowed to quit,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal told several stories that demonstrated how, throughout his career, his father provided a reality check for his son. For example, his father insisted his son get an education (O’Neal has a doctorate) in case “his knee blows out.” O’Neal also shared a story about how after a particularly difficult game, his father made him get out of the car and talk to a homeless family, telling him that he wasn’t under a lot of pressure, they were.
As a balance to that influence, O’Neal’s mother was his ultimate supporter, always believing in him and telling him to keep fighting.
“I would tell her when I was a kid that I was going to buy her house someday,” He related. “At the time, I didn’t really believe it, I was just trying to get an extra scoop of ice cream. But she did. She would always say, ‘Baby, I know you are.’”
THE 80-20 LEADER
Well-known for his sense of humor, O’Neal also discussed the role that humor plays in leadership. O’Neal researched this issue as part of his dissertation.
“I was anxious to see which was more effective humor or seriousness,” O’Neal said, “What I found out is we as human beings modulate, we’re not 100% humorous or 100% serious.”
O’Neal says that as a leader he is 80% humorous and 20% serious. Pat Riley, who was his coach at the Los Angeles Lakers, is 10% humorous and 90% serious, according to O’Neal. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls, is 50-50.
Another key aspect of O’Neal’s leadership style is respect.
“I’ve always tried to lead by example,” he said. “I don’t find it necessary to tell [other players] what they should do. I always loved seeing Magic Johnson doing right for the community. I don’t tell guys you should do this, or you should do that. I do think you should take care of where you are from.”