Spring is here--it's baseball season! Don't worry, I'm not going to quote from Field of Dreams. But there's a lot we can learn, as leaders and entrepreneurs, from Major League Baseball teams. If you look closely, each team has its own personality.
Some are brash and rebellious, not afraid to push the envelope. Some are conservative and cautious. In that way, they're a lot like leaders in any organization. So, in the spirit of the new 2018 baseball season, let's take a look at some of the organizations, from the Cubs to the Yankees, whose "personalities" translate into distinctive leadership styles, and what each has to teach you about leading your business.
New York Yankees
Style: The Brash Big Spender, but Smart
Environment: A competitive industry where big risks = big wins
Everybody loves to hate the Bronx Bombers, but everybody also wishes they had their giant wallet. Back in the days before analytics, they were just the big bully on the block. But now they're even more dangerous: the guys with the huge budget and a team of MIT-trained number-crunchers. If they were leading a company, the Yankees would be the aggressive CEO with the ability to make big bets and absorb some failures along the way.
That's the takeaway. If you're a leader with resources, those resources are wasted unless you take the initiative and use data to help you make smart calls. Big bets can build incredible companies, but failed bets can bring ruin. If you want to lead like the Yankees, swing a big financial stick and makes everyone else panic, but be smart about it.
Style: Revenge of the Nerds
Environment: Patient comeback with huge expectations
When Theo Epstein became the general manager of the Cubs, the job came with an expectation: take the team to its first World Series win in 108 years. The Cubs are a big-market team, but spending money has never led to anything but losing. So they gave Epstein and his team of statistics nerds a long leash: use data-driven leadership to build a winning team over a few years while resisting short-term fixes. In 2016, the Cubs won the Series.
When a company has a comeback to stage, a smart leader takes emotion out of it, plays the long game, and trusts the data. The stats say a department is unproductive? Fix it or replace the people. A beloved product is tanking? Update it or dump it. Business craves quick fixes, but sometimes there is no quick fix.
Style: The Rule Breaker
The Rockies play a mile above sea level, which is hell for pitchers. So the Rockies rarely win. In recent years, they've experimented. They store baseballs in a humidor to make them less explosive, and in 2018 they spent lots of money on relief pitchers. The Rockies decided that if their starting pitchers were going to be chased from the game anyway, they should have an army of great arms coming after them. That showed fans that management is willing to break with tradition in order to reverse years of poor performance.
Good leaders don't cling to bad ideas out of pride or self-delusion. They know when to let something go. So what if something hasn't been tried before? That doesn't mean it won't work. This kind of leader is creative and rebellious but results-driven. He or she knows the important thing isn't what makes a leader look good but what gets results.
Chicago White Sox
Style: Trust the Talent
Environment: Zero expectations
Chicago's other team was overshadowed by the Cubs' resurgence, so general manager Rick Hahn took advantage. With the team weighed down by big contracts and going nowhere, he decided to rebuild from scratch and traded most of the team's top players, getting lots of young, talented prospects in return. Hahn trusted that the team was better off taking a chance on young talent than it was limping along in mediocrity.
If you're getting crushed by the competition and nobody's paying attention, your best move as a leader might be to start over. That doesn't apply only to small companies, either. In the 1990s, IBM's core mainframe business was getting destroyed by the PC, and the mammoth company reinvented itself as a service business. If everybody underestimates you or thinks you're finished, that might be your time to lead your best people on a covert mission to take the business in a new direction.