You can learn about leadership from a variety of places. Researchers Howard Fero and Rebecca Herman decided to study leadership principles in Major League Baseball. Touring numerous MLB clubhouses and interviewing managers from Tampa’s Joe Maddon to Los Angeles’ Don Mattingly, they developed what they call the 10 bases of leadership.
“Hope is energizing, engaging, contagious, and increases our spirit and ability to be resilient.” -Fero and Herman
Their new book is called Lead Me Out to the Ballgame: Stories and Strategies to Develop Major League Leadership. It explores the insights learned from the game of baseball and how they apply to leaders in every situation.
I had an opportunity to ask the authors a few questions about their conclusions.
“If you want to be a leader, the first person you have to lead is yourself.” -Mike Scioscia
Tell me more about your research. What were your goals? Where did your research take you?
The idea came to us about 2.5 years ago when we were in a session at a management conference. As leadership professors and consultants we know how important it is for people in all walks of life to develop their leadership skills and also know that quite often, they just don’t know how to do it. As we sat at the conference we had the idea to marry together our love of leadership with our other love, baseball.
The goals for our project were pretty ambitious. Without having any idea of how to go about achieving our goal, we decided we wanted to gain access to the players and managers from the 30 teams in Major League Baseball and find out from them how managers lead their teams, inspire trust, manage diverse populations, and deal with success as well as defeat. Our objective was to take the stories we heard and use them to develop strategies so that people outside of the game could develop their own leadership skills. We are proud to say that the ten Bases of Major League Leadership that are included in Lead Me Out to the Ballgame come from the interviews we held with 17 Major League Baseball managers and over 100 MLB players and executives.
Our research took us into the inner sanctum of Major League Baseball as we met with managers in their offices and in their dugouts during batting practice, and even on the third base line as they watched their players warm up. We also met with players in the clubhouses and learned from them some of the unique ways that their managers helped them to achieve success and overcome obstacles.
Your book shares 10 bases of leadership and is broken into 3 major sections: Leading Ourselves, Leading Others and Leading the Game. Let’s touch on one of the bases in each section.
Leading Yourself. Base number one is finding your passion. What advice do you have for someone looking for what really makes them tick, what really drives them?
We heard some great stories from managers and players about the importance of not only finding your passion but showing it to those around you. Ryan Doumit, a catcher, now with the Atlanta Braves, summed up many of the sentiments we heard when he said, “When the leader, the guy at the helm, believes and is passionate, it’s tough not to feel that same energy.” This is such a great point as it’s not enough for a person to be passionate about what he or she does. To be a leader this passion needs to be seen by others. In order for an impact to be made on a team, passion needs to be visible so that others will become excited about a goal as well.
Finding one’s passion is something we all need to do; we need to determine what it is we like to do. Do we like speaking with people and solving problems? Do we like crunching numbers and seeing the results emerge in front of our eyes? Do we like teaching others and seeing the light bulb go off when an idea resonates with them? To each of us there are different things which excite us, and it’s an individual’s task to identify them and determine what careers are a good fit for the things which excite us.
“What I’m most proud of is the culture change, the belief in how it should be done, and then going out there and doing everything they can to make it work and make it happen.” -Ron Washington
Leading Others. Base number seven is effective communication. What tips do you have to help leaders communicate vision and inspire others?