by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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The Cubs vs. Indians World Series has captured the nation. From ardent baseball fans to casual sports fans, everybody is tuning in to see which city will break their long World Series drought. The games have been intense and electrifying, filled with incredible plays and great moments. What may lay hidden to the average viewer are the leadership lessons that can be taken from the World Series games and immediately transferred into any organization. As business or school leaders we are not figuring out whether to steal second, call for a reliever, or bunt a player into scoring position. But nevertheless, the actions taken in the form of leadership in this World Series relate closely to the actions we take on a daily basis in our organizations. Four particular leadership lessons that business and school leaders can implement in their organizations have shined in this World Series.
Know the strengths of your players:
Both managers, Joe Madden (Cubs) and Terry Francona (Indians), are well known for being players’ coaches. This means they are particularly in tune with the strengths and weaknesses of their players. In every situation, both Madden and Francona are not trying to push their own agenda, but are rather working to align the strengths of their players with the situations that arise in games. They concentrate in setting their team up for success by putting the right players in the right places at the right times. For business or school success, leaders must know their employees so that they can align their roles with their strengths.
Charisma makes a difference:
Throughout the games, you see players and coaches getting excited. When great plays happen, they are jumping up and down, high-fiving, fist-bumping, yelling, and having fun. There is an excitement that builds with every great play, and the team environment builds stronger as they get excited. Players are pointing at each other, talking with each other, cheering for each other, all in an attempt to pump each other up to achieve success. This charismatic leadership has a virus affect as others catch it and everybody gets moving in the direction towards success. In organizations, leaders must be ready to cheer their team on, to provide charismatic speeches, and to get people pumped up for success.
Situations constantly change plans:
Even the best laid plans can be wrecked by situations that arise in a game. Everything can be planned out, but rarely do the plans go perfectly. As can be seen throughout this World Series, situations and contexts can change everything on a moment’s notice. In these games, many starting pitchers have struggled to pitch their normal 6 innings and so both Francona and Madden have had to bring in relievers at earlier times. In a normal regular season game, the situations would have been addressed differently and the star closers would have been saved for the 9th inning. But here in the World Series, star relievers are being used as early as the 5th inning and are being asked to pitch multiple innings. In business and school organizations, leaders must be ready to adapt to each and every situation that arises.
Don’t be afraid to make a decision:
Throughout the series, both Francona and Madden have been making huge decisions, such as which players to start, who to have pinch-hit, and when to bring in a relief pitcher. While playing in Chicago, Francona had to decide whether to play Carlos Santana (his normal DH) in the field or stick with Mike Napoli. He picked Santana to play, and it paid off as Santana hit a huge home run in their win. For Madden and the Cubs, they had to decide whether to play Kyle Schwarber, one of their young stars. Schwarber had been injured the entire season, but suddenly was ready to play only in the World Series. Madden decided to play him despite missing the whole season and he has been one of the Cubs’ best hitters throughout the series. While these are but two of the big decisions that went right, so many decisions do not go right and so leaders must be ready to face the criticism when it fails. In business and school organizations, leaders must have the conviction to make the hard decisions and then answer to the outcomes, whether they are positive or negative.
Each of these four leadership lessons from the Cubs vs. Indians World Series can shed light on the actions, decisions, and approaches of leaders in any organization. Charisma, decision-making, changing with situations, and knowing your players are all incredibly important to any leader in any organization. They can provide the boost to any organization that is pushing for success. As Game Seven looms this evening, all of us will have to wait to see which team wins and breaks their drought. As for this avid baseball fan and leadership expert, I know I am going to be paying attention to how the leadership game unfolds as well! Most likely the team that shows the greatest leadership is probably going to be bringing victory back to their city for the first time in a long while!