There is a lot out there about what makes a great leader. Attributes that have been called out range from personal habits and capabilities to the ability to inspire and motivate the workforce to being able to create focus and drive hard decisions.
All are critical, but we often forget how important behaviors are for leaders and how important and powerful you can be as a leader by being the person you want everyone else in the organization to be.
It's opening week for Major League Baseball. Whether you are a baseball fan like me or not, this isn't a piece about baseball. It is a piece about quiet leadership and the impact of modeling leadership behaviors. And for that, I turn to baseball and arguably the best baseball player on the planet, someone who has already won the league MVP twice and who is only 24 years old.
When you aren't being amazed at what he can do on the baseball field, here are four things Mike Trout does that all of us should pay attention to in the business world because they speak to leadership and modeling leadership behavior:
1. Works harder than everyone else and is always trying to get better
As great as he is, Trout was known for not having the best throwing arm when he came into the league. Kind of a funny criticism for a guy who won the MVP award in only his second season at the age of 20. So despite his greatness, he chose to work on improving his throwing arm, which he did considerably in just one season.
For the business world, showing that you as the leader are always trying to get better demonstrates to everyone else in the organization how important personal development and growth is, no matter what your level is or how good you already are.
Companies benefit greatly when this becomes part of the culture.
2. Never takes a pitch off
Trout's manager, Mike Scioscia, himself a baseball legend, was quoted once as saying that Trout never takes a single pitch off. In other words, he doesn't phone anything in no matter what the score is, who they are playing, or how many people are in the stands watching the game.
In the business world, this speaks to culture as well. Even your best performers and highest potential people don't coast. Leaders who model this approach instill that as a core component of the culture of the company.
3. Immediately moves past failure to figure out what to do next time
I remember reading about a game where Trout struck out badly two times in a row against a pitcher. After the second time, he could have come back to the dugout and threw his bat or cursed. As the story went, though, he came back and simply said:
"I've figured it out now. I got him next time."
He did get him next time to the tune of a double.
For anyone who watches or has played baseball, it is a game of failure. In other words, you fail a lot and it is just part of the game. Those who succeed in the game understand this and are always learning from the failure versus dwelling on it.
In business, this same approach to failure is critically important. Modeling the approach to move past failure and figure out what's next can instill that mindset in everyone in the company, especially if it happens at the senior most levels of the leadership ranks.
4. Recognizes the responsibility he has as one of the most important faces of the game today
Mike Trout often receives praise from people close to and around the game for how humble he is both on and off the field as well as how readily he acknowledges that he is not "bigger than the game."
If the greatest player on the planet has this approach, certainly it makes it hard for anyone else on his team who isn't as good to have any sort of individualistic attitude. He always puts his team before himself, doesn't complain or blame, and always stays positive even if the team isn't doing well.
For business leaders, this concept of not being bigger than the company is easily transferable. Modeling that humility goes a long way in building real follower-ship from employees in the ranks.
So the next time you watch Mike Trout, pay attention to how he carries himself. He's not the loudest guy in the locker room, but he just might be the best leader you'll see who doesn't have to say a whole heck of a lot.