Close this search box.
Close this search box.

CEO Stan Moss: ‘When Bad Things Happen, Leaders Have To Take Responsibility’

© AdobeStock
In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Polen Capital CEO Stan Moss talks about the code of personal responsibility he developed following a botched play as a punter for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

A blocked punt may have taught one CEO the most important business lesson of his life. On Alabama’s first punt against Florida in 1990, the defensive lineman ran up the middle untouched, blocked Stan Moss’ punt, picked up the ball, and ran it in for a touchdown. Florida went on to win the game, and in the post-game interview, Moss was asked about the costly error.

“I thought about what Coach Gene Stallings said to me after the play,” Moss recalled of that moment 32 years ago. “‘It is the punter’s responsibility to get the ball off—no matter what,’ he’d said. During the post-game interview, I thought about his words and about the offensive lineman I was tempted to blame and chose my reply, “It is always the punter’s responsibility to get the ball off, so it’s on me.”

Moss’s stand-up reply engendered a kind of trust between himself and his teammates that cannot be manufactured. Trust must come from honest and straightforward ownership of challenging moments, he says. “And you know, looking back all these years later, serving as Polen Capital’s CEO, that lesson that’s benefited me throughout my career. When bad things happen, leaders have to take responsibility. When good things happen, many can take credit for that.”

Turning tough times into opportunities for growth has helped Polen Capital gain recognition by Pensions & Investments as the industry’s “Best Place to Work” six years in a row, thanks in large part to its CEO’s reputation for maximizing productivity while prioritizing the well-being of its workers.

Listeners will understand why Polen Capital is no ordinary firm through glimpses into the firm’s innovative and resilient culture, including:

• How Moss uses his grandfather’s advice, “Winning isn’t anything you own. You just rent it, and then you have to pay the rent daily,” to focus and motivate his team.

• The positive results Polen experienced by intentionally replacing a culture of fear with one of continuous learning and improvement.

• Why Moss thinks storytelling is so critical to building a culture of trust at Polen Capital that he commissioned a book of deeply personal staff profiles, including his own.

“We strongly believe in providing the structure and the resources that will enable a person to come to work as his or her true, authentic self every single day,” said Moss. “And by sharing our stories with the organization, that authenticity shines through, builds trust and makes our culture a competitive advantage.”

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.