Leadership lessons from baseball

Leadership lessons from baseball
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The principles of managing a baseball team can apply to leaders in all sorts of fields. That's the conclusion, at least, drawn by Howard C. Fero, the co-author of "Lead Me Out to the Ballgame: Stories and Strategies to Develop Major League Leadership" and an executive coach and director of graduate leadership programs at Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut.

Fero spoke with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q. Tell me about the leadership model described in your book.

A. We came up with 10 dimensions (or bases) of leadership after interviewing more than 100 Major League Baseball managers, players and executives. The first base is find your passion. As a leader, you need to show everybody else how excited and enthusiastic you are about whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish. The second base is leading by example. The next base deals with respect and trust. You have to generate trust and respect from the people on your team and also you have to be able to give it back. The fourth base is know your people, whether it's the utility player, the person who works in the back office or the star salesperson -- and know what it is that drives each one of them. The other bases are cultivating relationships, supporting your people, communication, knowing your game, fostering teamwork and creating a winning culture.

Q. Which baseball managers exemplify this model?

A. We spoke with 17 Major League Baseball managers, each of them sharing great stories and strategies with us. Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, Bob Melvin of the Oakland A's and the now retired Davey Johnson talked a lot about the importance of having a positive attitude.

Maddon has this great quote. He says, "I walk in the door and I'm the same person every day regardless, win or lose, good or bad." That really sets the tone. In baseball there are at least 162 games to every season. You're going to have bad losses. And you can relate that to industry and government. There are going to be bad days at the office. There's going to be a day where everything goes wrong. How you respond to that really sets the tone of the upcoming days, weeks and months.

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