Photo credit: Philadelphia Phillies

Why Phillies manager Rob Thomson is a transformational Level 5 leader

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on October 28, 2022. Updated 8 am.

When Rob Thomson was promoted from coach to interim manager of the Phillies on June 3 with a win-loss record at the time of 22-29, who would have thought that the team would be playing in the World Series?

Amassing an impressive record of 65-46 during the remainder of the season under Thomson, the Phillies earned a sixth seed wild card slot in the playoffs, The team went on to defeat St. Louis, Atlanta and San Diego with authority to reach the World Series in nine wins to two losses, outscoring their opponents 59-35. “Interim” was dropped from Thomson’s title on Oct. 10 when he was named Phillies manager with a two-year contract. 

Thomson’s turnaround of the Phillies during the regular season is even more astounding due to 2021 National League MVP Bryce Harper being out of the lineup from June 25 through Aug. 26 to allow his broken thumb to heal.

What is it about Thomson’s leadership style that enabled him to lead the Phillies to the World Series? What type of leader is Thomson?

Indeed is a company that describes itself as the “#1job site in the world, connecting millions of people to new opportunities.” The company identifies 10 common leadership styles. I believe the style that most accurately describes Thomson is what Indeed identifies as “transformational,” a style that “focuses on clear communication, goal setting, motivation and mutual respect. Transformational leaders provide encouragement and inspires others to achieve their goals.” Transformational leaders get the best out of their people.

Thomson reminds me of a Level 5 leader as described by Jim Collins in his iconic leadership book, “Good to Great.” Collins identifies a Level 5 leader as one who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”

Photo credit: Philadelphia Phillies

What your players say about you is the best descriptor of your management style. As reported by Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer in an Oct. 17 article, “Zack Wheeler said Thomson is human. J.T. Realmuto said he had a calming presence. Rhys Hoskins called Thomson genuine and relatable”.

Breen quotes Hoskins, stating the team is “more than happy to go to war for him.” Harper is quoted as stating that he “has a pretty good grasp on who we are as people.”

Thomson has a wealth of baseball experience and worked hard to absorb every aspect of the game. He served as a coach under former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who gave Thomson the nickname, Topper, because he was always on top of everything.

In an Oct 5. interview, columnist Jim Salisbury writing for NBCSports quotes Torre:  “[Thomson] was very organized. He lived at the ballpark. He was there all the time. I’d get to the park in spring training by a quarter to 7 and he was already there finishing his work. He had it all mapped out and ready on my desk to look at. And he was a stickler for precision. With more than 50 guys in camp, that’s not easy.”

The knowledge Thomson built over the years contributed to his ability to make game decisions to create a competitive edge, taking the Phillies to the World Series. 

Collins states that Level 5 leaders are very ambitious, but “their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” Level 5 leaders are not imperial leaders. They do not self-aggrandize. They are focused on building a team that can achieve great results. This is Rob Thomson. A role model for all leaders.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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