Friday, October 12, 2012


Leadership- what does that really mean? And how should a manager lead effectively?  Let’s face the facts, managers lead personalities, make critical game time decisions and ultimately create a healthy competitive spirit and climate on the field and in the clubhouse. He main priority is managing.   He is NOT a player’s friend, he is the manager and if that manager doesn’t have effective leadership characteristics at the end of the day, well, he’s not fit to manage.

A well-known educator and leadership researcher, Michael Fullen once said in his article “Leading in a Culture of Change, “the litmus test of all leadership is whether it mobilizes people's commitment to putting their energy into actions designed to improve things.

Now that you know that, think about what we’ve seen the past few weeks, or even years in baseball.

Subject 1: Bobby Valentine. Former Red Sox Manager who has been called a bully, a con-artist and even overrated HERE at BYB. The New York Times once called Bobby a baseball genius, read HERE. The Red Sox bought into it and hired him and in this case study, it ended with the Red Sox having the worst season record in 50 years.  Couple that with accusations of poor instincts by John Henry who hired the guy, and we’re onto something.
Subject 2:  Ozzie Guillen, the Miami Marlins. Fireworks began in Miami the first week of the 2012 season when he was quoted in a CBS Sports article (HERE) saying that he goes to the hotel bar and gets drunk after games.  Later that week, Guillen praised dictator Fidel Castro.  Neither incident promoted a good first impression for the manager in Miami.  But what about his leadership skills on the field?  Many of his players at the White Sox and now the Marlins say that Guillen is spirited sometimes speaking a little too fast and unclear when giving directions, yet he definitely knows the game.  According to a September 25th article in the Miami Herald, “Guillen’s future with the team is also uncertain," read HERE. Upper management is mulling over firing him and one national baseball writer wrote that Marlins executives perceive there to be a “disconnect” between Guillen and players.”  So in Miami, we will have to wait and see.  Keep calm and manage on?

Are we seeing any commonalities here?  Poor communication skills, not sensitive to players’ needs, cocky, loud, inflexible, and an inability to create a culture that empowers players to perform to their potential as a team- all signs that effective leadership is just not there.

Now what about managers that “Keep calm and manage on” amidst injuries, media pressure, and player egos?

Subject 1Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Maddon has been consistent in his leadership.  According to the October 2011 Washington Post article (HERE) “Joining the Cult of Tampa Bay Rays’ Joe Maddon” Maddon has built a community in the clubhouse, one that inspires teamwork and mutual respect.  And let’s not forget that Joe Maddon wins ball games.  “Joe Maddon lives an authentic life, one where he is true to himself regardless of the external pressures to conform.  This authenticity translates into his successful work as a baseball manager.” He creates a positive culture and he models important life skills for his players.  Maddon has job security in Tampa Bay for sure.  He keeps it calm and manages on.
Subject 2:  Joe Girardi, our very own New York Yankees manager.  He is definitely no Joe Torre and some may say that he plays the numbers a little too much, but his players play for him.  They may not always like his decisions but they respect him.  In the New York Daily News October 4th article (HERE) “Call It Calendar Management for Joe Girardi as Yankees’ Skipper is at His Best When Looking at the Big Picture”, Girardi is deemed a resourceful manager who transfers credits for wins to his players instead of doting on himself.  “I got a great group of guys in there, that’s what it says, who expect to win, who talk about going to get it during some tough circumstances,” Girardi said. “You know I have a feisty side to me, and everyone’s seen it, but for the most part I’ve tried to be even-keeled for those guys.”

Girardi comes across humble and yes Joe often relies on stats rather then going with his gut, but in the end, Joe stands by his decisions. This emotional toughness and protective nature of Girardi makes him an effective manager and the right leader for the Yankees.

Effective leadership enables teams to perform at their best.  The culture of clubs who have effective leaders at the helm is positive, upbeat, and productive despite the chaos surrounding the sport and even the team.  Managers too need good leadership in the front office.  As The Washington Post series “On Leadership” states,  “Great managers may win games, pennants and even World Series. But great leaders build organizations that have a chance at doing so year after year.”  It takes a village to build a team and it starts with good leadership.  And when all else fails, keep calm and manage on.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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