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Globe Summit

Alex Cora and Keith Lockhart, leaders of very different types of players, discuss how they motivate teams to succeed, on final day of Globe Summit

Linda Henry moderates a session with Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops for the Boston Globe Summit 2023 in WBUR’s City Space.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

What does it take to lead the best in the business? Confidence.

On the final day of Globe Summit 2023, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart agreed that the key to effective leadership is projecting confidence in good times and bad.

“Not to be confused with arrogance,” said Lockhart. “Confidence that is born of preparation. You never want to be the kind of leader who yells ‘Charge!’ and jumps out of the trench and has to look around to see if anybody followed them.”

In conversation with Boston Globe Media chief executive Linda Henry, Cora and Lockhart were asked what it takes to get a diverse group — talented people of varying ages and abilities — to work, or play, together successfully.

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Both know a thing or two about achieving at a high level. Cora played 14 seasons with six Major League Baseball teams before becoming a coach for the Houston Astros and then, in 2018, taking over as manager of the Red Sox and leading the team to a franchise-record 108 wins and the 2018 World Series title.

And Lockhart has been conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra since 1995, succeeding baton-wielding legends John Williams and Arthur Fiedler on the podium. He’s led more than 2,000 Pops performances in cities across the country and around the world. To many, the Pops are perhaps best known for their annual July 4 extravaganza on the Esplanade, which has been watched by millions on TV.

Both said part of their job involved empowering and protecting those who work for them.

“When you gain that trust, when they can go into your office because you tell him the truth all the time, they open up not only as players — they’re going to perform — but as people, and that’s what you want,” said Cora. “If I make them feel comfortable, I do believe, on a daily basis, we’re going to get the best out of the player.”

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Humility, too, is essential, said Lockhart. He recalled his first meeting with Williams, the celebrated composer who was Pops conductor from 1980 to 1996. It was at the Ritz Hotel, the night before Lockhart was announced as Williams’s successor.

“He is a wonderful and wise man, but he gave me one piece of advice I’ve never forgotten,” Lockhart said. “Don’t run in and try to make the orchestra your own. … At the end of the day, don’t presume knowledge that you don’t have.”

Cora said the past few seasons have been tough for the Red Sox — three last-place finishes in four years — and, in a baseball-obsessed city like Boston, that can make the job of manager more difficult. Cora said he has to speak to the media before and after all 162 games, and when the team is struggling, his priority is protecting the players.

“If I don’t protect them, I’m going to lose respect and they’re going to be in a bad spot,” he said. “When a guy struggles, it’s we struggle. And it’s not Brayan Bello hung a changeup, it’s we hung a changeup.”

Both said travel also takes a heavy toll, and there are moments during their respective seasons when they have to work hard to appear excited even if they’re not, and that’s not easy.

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“In the middle of 39 concerts in three weeks, I can’t say, ‘Well, I’m feeling out of it today, so I’m going to phone it in,’” said Lockhart. “You have to (be energized) because if you don’t, the team slumps behind you.”


Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him @MarkAShanahan.