Leadership Lessons from the World Series

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

During game six of the World Series, Cardinal player Matt Holliday made an error that would have embarrassed a high school player—he dropped an easy fly ball to left field. As he and Rafael Furcal collided, the game looked more like a Three Stooges episode than a competition involving world-class athletes.

Why? Two words. “It’s mine.” Holliday didn’t say them.

The same thing happens in organizations every day. So called “teams,” which really resemble committees, fail to determine areas of accountability among their players.  Metaphorically, they too drop the ball. No one steps up, yells “Mine!” and makes things happen. Instead, members of the group plod along, neglect defining roles, overlook common goals, and don’t hold themselves and each other accountable.

What’s a leader to do? Tony La Russa looked down and shook his head. My baseball expert adviser son-in-law, Pat, tells me he probably also cussed. Neither strategy will help your team.

If you truly need and want a team, reward them as a group. Hold them accountable to team results, not just individual contributions. Tie their bonuses and compensation to their work as a team. One player can’t go to the World Series, and neither can one of your team members carry the others.

A building full of virtuoso talent that won’t communicate with each other when they need to won’t help you any more than average talent. The first step always involves hiring the best players; the second demands you get the most from them. Sometimes results don’t depend on teamwork, but sometimes they do.

The gods smiled on the Cardinals last night, so the game had a happy ending. Let’s hope we can say the same this time tomorrow and they can say of the victory, “It’s ours!”

Go Cards!

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