Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?
Every leader develops their own leadership style through some combination of natural talent, formal training, mentorship, observation, experience and luck. It’s an evolutionary process that is unique and personal to each leader. Fundamentally, however, any leadership style or philosophy must reflect, support and advance the values and culture of the organization the leader serves.
Our organization, which is comprised of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Footprint Center, is relentlessly committed to a culture of winning, both on and off the court. To drive this culture, we have identified five “Winning Behaviors” — the values we expect our teammates to aspire to live by every day. These Winning Behaviors are Integrity, Accountability, Resilience, the Pursuit of Excellence, and Teamwork. The consistent application of these values is as impactful to success on the basketball court as it is to success in the boardroom.
Our Winning Behaviors are more than just words on a wall. We incorporate them into our short- and long-term planning; our employee recognition and rewards programs; our annual review process and incentive compensation plan; and our recruiting, retention, and employee development programs. But, most importantly, we expect our leaders and managers to reinforce these behaviors through modeling them in their own daily interactions with their co-workers. The results speak for themselves — in a few short years, we have transformed our company into a model sports and entertainment enterprise, and a point of pride for the City of Phoenix, the Valley, and the State of Arizona.
What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?
Every business was negatively impacted by COVID in one way or another. For our industry, it was devastating. The live sports and entertainment business model essentially evaporated for nearly a year, as did most associated revenue streams. At the time, some industry observers even prophesied that live events were a thing of the past and would never return to prior form (thankfully they were very, very wrong).
I learned from this experience that even in the worst of circumstances, you can still find ways to successfully advance your business through focused leadership. For us, that came in the form of two major projects — our $250 million arena renovation and $50 million state-of-the-art practice facility. These two projects were originally scheduled to break ground the summer of 2020, which turned out to be deep in the heart of the pandemic. Thankfully, Governor Ducey had the wisdom to designate construction as an “essential service” in Arizona, thereby allowing us to commence construction of the projects. Amazingly, we finished the projects on budget and ahead of schedule, all during the worst pandemic in 100 years.
What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?
Despite some periodic setbacks, our market has enjoyed significant economic growth over the last two decades. We have attracted companies from a wide range of industries, thereby injecting greater economic diversity and opportunity into our state. We have done a good job planning for and creating the basic infrastructure necessary to support a burgeoning corporate base and ever-growing population. However, large gaps still exist in the areas of education, access to services for traditionally underprivileged communities, water, and affordable housing. As the world continues to innovate and transition to the digital economy at an accelerated pace, the Arizona business community needs to support policies and political candidates that seek rational, common-sense solutions to these issues.
What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?
Arizona has become a premier sports and entertainment destination, and at the heart of it all is our newly renovated arena in downtown Phoenix, which was renamed as Footprint Center in July 2021 as part of a long-term partnership with Footprint, a material science company based in Gilbert, Arizona. Footprint’s mission is creating a healthier planet by reducing dependency on single- and short-term-use plastics.
As part of the partnership, Footprint will bring its food and beverage solutions and a team of dedicated experts to help Footprint Center become carbon-neutral and single-use-plastic-free while creating a living innovation lab for food and beverage suppliers to learn more about consumer sentiment and how they can transition away from plastic. Together, we are forging solutions that can be scaled outside Footprint Center and across the industry, helping companies concerned with ESG to integrate plant-based fiber solutions that are designed to be recycled and composted into their core product lines.
Fans at Suns and Mercury games or concerts and shows have already begun to experience food served in Footprint’s biodegradable, compostable and recyclable solutions as well as educational points about the positive impact of making a switch from single-use plastics in their everyday lives. Ultimately, Footprint Center will become an immersive living innovation lab for fans, enterprising partners and likeminded venue operators from around the world to visit.
Name of Leader: Jason Rowley
Position of Leader: President & CEO
Organization Name: Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Footprint Center
No. of Years with Organization: 15
Main Local Office Address: 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 379-7000
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 2
Year Established Locally: 1968
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix
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