Leadership Lessons from Little League
I’m a baseball fanatic – I love the game, I love watching it and I love analyzing it. I have had the privilege of coaching it, watching as a parent and finally, watching other parents. You learn a lot about people and leadership after spending 10 years observing children and their parents in Little League.
Leadership lessons I’ve learned:
- One Team member does not make a team. Economists Chris Anderson and David Salley asked this question: What matters more – “how good your best player is or how good your worst – player is?” In baseball, your worst player matters more than your best player. Mistakes are an important part of the game. Having a superstar player does not mean you will have an outstanding team. The depth of the team that surround the “superstars” will decide who is the champion.
- Fundamentals over flair – In baseball, it begins and ends with fundamentals. I love practice more than the games – Practice is about developing the fundamentals so when game time comes – the player is ready. Parents love the kid who catches the amazing fly ball or gets a double play – the flair of the game. But, it is the player’s commitment to the fundamentals that produces the outcome. The late John Wooden, who coached 10 NCAA National Championships for UCLA men’s basketball would say, “I was not much of a game coach, but a great practice coach.” The first practice of every year, he would spend the entire 4 hour practice doing one thing: every player would have to learn how to put on their basketball shoes and tie the laces correctly. Why? Because if they learned the fundamental of putting on their shoes correctly, they would be less likely to develop calluses on their feet which could impact their performance during the game.
- Managers matter – The best coaches I have had the privilege of working with – they understand not only the game but how to instill the confidence into the players they are coaching/mentoring. Managers/coaches focus on the culture, strategy, standard of performance and creating an environment that helps players be successful. The best managers/coaches are not only great students of the game but they understand each of their players as an individual and their respective contribution to the team.
- Positivity – this always prevails. Jon Gordon, author of Power of a Positive Team, studied many successful teams. He found that simply having a positive mindset is one of the most influential factors for success. We have all been in toxic cultures – wow, is it draining.
My wife, Angie and I have been to so many baseball games over the last 10 years, we have stopped counting. The coaches, the wins, the losses, the losing seasons and the taste of winning it all at the championship game will be forgotten. The most important thing we witnessed – coaching and teaching is a gift we all should aspire to pass on. I only hope we have instilled a small bit of virtue into the next generation of young people. Never forget – what you do as a leader, matters.
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