What could you learn about your own understanding of leadership if you plotted nine traits of a leader as if they were players on a baseball diamond? Could a visual illustration of the 9 different players —aligned with and interacting with each other – help you better understand and appreciate the precision in their performance and the poetry in their collective behavior?
Let’s find out. Let’s use the leadership traits listed in The Truth About Leadership, a book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner to more fully appreciate the depth and breadth of a leader’s collective skill-set, the energy it takes and the synergy it creates.
But first let’s posit that leading by EXAMPLE is a prerequisite. Now we can allocate the 9 remaining traits (called Truths in the book) on a diagram of a baseball diamond. (The 10 traits are in BOLDFACE CAPS).
Let’s begin with what baseball calls THE BATTERY: the pitcher and the catcher.
The battery generates the energy, spirit and drive of the team. The pitcher (1) sets the tone with a sharing and caring attitude –-LOVE-– and the catcher (2) adopts a FUTURE-ORIENTED mindset perched behind home plate with a clear view of the many variables and infinite possibilities on the entire field of play to capitalize on fleeting opportunities immediately (like throwing a baserunner out trying to steal second base.)
Meanwhile the infield concentrates on the here and now with a get ‘r done mindset.
The infield – first base, second base, shortstop and third base –collectively establish the core competency of the team quite literally have the pitcher’s back in general in fending off the opposition. The core competency of a leader’s infield includes:
CREDIBILITY playing first base.
CONVICTION playing second base.
TEAMWORK playing shortstop and
COMMITMENT playing third base.
Of those four infield positions, CREDIBILITY is the most important.
When you do what you say you will do — on time virtually every time — you earn credibility. The infield not only expects but has come to know that their first baseman (3) will be there in time and in position to make the put out. In 4.3 seconds or less –the time it takes the fastest batter-turned base runner to race to first base after getting a hit.
That credibility in a steady and sustaining performance fuels the other three traits in infield of (4) CONVICTION (overcoming adversity with sense of purpose, (5) COMMITMENT (values and determined focus) and (6) TEAMWORK.
Together the infield synchronizes their actions.
They react instantly and consistently regularly executing double-plays with an efficiency that conjures the Tinker-to-Evans-to Chance poem of yesteryear (1910) that celebrated the timely collaboration among shortstop Joe Tinkers (TEAMWORK), second baseman Johnny Evers (CONVICTION) and first baseman Frank Chance (CREDIBILITY) of the Chicago Cubs.
Outfielders, on the other hand, assume a more anticipatory stance that constantly is evaluating changing conditions. They respond more deliberately, for example in assessing the change (of a fly ball ) in real time more than react instinctively or routinely. Outfielders, by virtue of their position — literally out in the field — have a few more seconds to evaluate a variety of factors (wind direction, speed, trajectory and speed of the ball etc.) in following the flight of a fly ball hit three times farther than those in the infield.
In evaluating, assessing and learning from the ever-changing conditions, the core competency of a leader’s outfield includes:
TRUST playing center field.
ADAPTABILITY playing left field.
AGILITY playing right field.
Step into the center fielder’s shoes. Notice that from your TRUST (8) position you can see the entire field –including the fans (aka followers) virtually all around you. With that expansive view of those who are depending on you, you are more apt to realize your strength as a leader stems from the trust you as the leader GIVE those fans in general and to your teammates in particular. The most effective leaders know that Trust is given. Mistrust is earned.
From your TRUST position in center field, you are more apt to be humble enough to learn something new from your left fielder (7) and more likely to ADAPT with a focus on continuous improvement (LEARNING) and face (CHALLENGES) with the AGILITY of a rightfielder (9) to anticipate and respond to change.
So in summary, we can gain a greater understanding of the synergy in a leader’s behavior when we diagram a leader’s traits on a baseball diamond and connect the dots (aka traits/positions) to both sustain and grow a leader’s authenticity. For example, step on to the pitcher’s mound and you will notice to your left is CREDIBILITY on first base and COMMITMENT on third base.
Now turn around and face your shortstop (6) TEAMWORK on your left and your second baseman (4) CONVICTION on your right.
The baseball diamond diagram also shows that you as the pitcher (1) feed off all of those characteristics with LOVE.
Your love “enlarges lives.” Your love feeds the “soul of leadership” and sustains continuous improvement. Your love endures despite change and challenge. And most importantly your love is treasured more than measured. Like a diamond. Forever.
For more insights on LOVE in a business context, you can purchase a 300-page book filled with 77 short stories (5-minute reads called Leadership Mints) on examples from business, sports and politics.