Three Leadership Lessons as American as Baseball and Apple Pie

Sports commentators are calling it one of the greatest games in baseball history. Depending on personal opinion, it certainly ranks in the top ten games of extra-inning finales and game-ending home runs.

For the 11th time in franchise history, the St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions, defeating the Texas Rangers in the 9th inning of the 7th game between the two teams. You can read the news story here.

It’s funny, but Game 7 isn’t really the story everyone is still talking about (although the game was exciting).  It’s Game 6 that is still creating a buzz.  Why?  Well, consider the facts.

The Cardinals were one strike from elimination not once but twice, and rallied to beat the Rangers 10-9 on David Freese’s home run in the 11th inning.  That performance forced the Word Series into Game 7 for the first time since 2002.

For baseball fans, it’s the kind of game you can’t get enough of.  And I suspect even for those out there who don’t relish the sport, the anticipation created by “sudden death” (twice) is exciting on at least some level.

Sports commentator Bob Costas sums it up, “There are other all-time great games that have been played well from top to bottom.  Part of what made this compelling is the gaffes, followed by heroics – by the same guys.”

Many will talk about the athleticism, team stats and heroics of the game.  I think we can also glean a few leadership lessons.  Consider these three truths:

#1 Perseverance pays off
No one predicted the Redbirds would even make it to the series.  But they did.  And no one thought the Series would build to an exciting 7th game finale. But it did.  The Cards did it.  They didn’t give up. They kept focusing on the basics – hitting the ball when they had the chance and catching it when the other team hit it. It took time (11 innings in Game 6 to be exact), but they did it. The same is true for your team – regardless of your goals or competition.  As leader, how are you encouraging your team to continue to move forward?   What does perseverance look like?  What is your “Game 6” moment?

#2 Excitement draws fans
The baseball term “full count” took on new meaning in Game 6.  On two separate occasions the Cards had two outs and the batter at the plate was at the final pitch moment: 3 balls and 2 strikes.  The next pitch would determine the outcome of the game. As the drama and suspense unfolded Thursday night, the Cards rallied and pulled out a victory.  Our living room was filled with suspense as we waited for those final pitches.  I can only imagine what it really felt like at the stadium.  The excitement of the game drew fans’ support.  They waited in anticipation to see the outcome. What about your team? Is there an excitement in your activities – that anticipation of action and progress? That energy is an important motivator for your team as well as everyone else (potential fans) your employees come in contact with.

#3 Every player is critical
Every player gets a time at bat –that’s the rule whether you’re watching a Little League game or the World Series.   The opportunity to score is everyone’s responsibility.  And when it’s time to be in the outfield, the same rules apply.  Beginning with the pitcher, every player is charged with the same task – don’t allow the other team to score.  Without every player doing his part, the other team is likely to win.  Back in the workplace, the same is true.  Does everyone on your team understand his/her role in the team and more importantly, are they accountable for that performance?  In business, it’s that critical distinction that separates you from your competition.

The Series is over.  A new winner has been added to the famed World Series roster.  And guess what, in just a few short months the Cardinals (along with every other baseball team) will focus on the next season and World Series title.  And isn’t that true of your business team?  It’s another Monday.  How is your team focused to win this week?  Play ball!

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