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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Competitiveness: The Desire to Win

Competitiveness is the number-one personality trait that drives urgency and motivation. It is an innate psychological drive for success. It is a dominant mode of behavior that allows a person to satisfy their ego by winning.

Leaders need to be competitive. Whether George Washington leading the rag-tag Contential Army against a vastly superior British force, or Lance Armstrong propelling his Tour de France team to seven consecutive victories, or Bill Gates designing an unheard of computer operating system out of his garage.

Roger Clemens, modern-day pitcher for the New York Yankees, is the epitome of competitiveness. He is in the same class as Ray Kroc, the legendary founder of McDonald’s who said, “If a competitor is drowning, stick a hose in his mouth.”

Clemens is 45 years old and in his twenty-fourth season of major league baseball. His performance with the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Houston Astros, and New York Yankees has guaranteed him election into baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot. His competitive nature has made him an icon – both loved and hated by fans and players throughout the country.

Once when relieved in the first inning, he called his wife Debbie from the locker room and asked her to pick him up at the stadium. She drove him to a local high school field where he pitched a bucket of baseballs against the backstop. Frustrated by his earlier failure, he pitched his own phantom game to straighten out his rhythm and timing.

Clemens is infamous for his brush back pitches. Opposing players have accused him of routinely throwing at their head. Clemens responded, “I’m not concerned, I’m relentless. I want to scare the hitter, it gets my blood pumping. I want those big hitters to have to make a split-second decision on a 96-mph fastball inside their letters, and they can’t. I want to juggle their eyeballs.”

Others have said, “Clemens is a dinosaur, the last of the old-time pitchers. No change-ups, slow curves, trick pitches. Nothing but hard stuff.”

Clemens has earned a reputation as being overly-aggressive. He thinks his brand of competitiveness and intensity is necessary to win. “You can’t worry about it. If a hitter’s afraid of getting hit, he shouldn’t be in the big leagues.”

Throughout his career, rumors have surfaced that Clemens is widely disliked in baseball. A former coach said, “Everyone hates him, except if you have him on your team.”

By Paul Alves, of Giombetti Associates, a Corporate Partner of the UMass Family Business Center

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