Leadership is often a common topic of discussion amongst my peers. I love evaluating leadership styles and dissecting principles that govern successful teams and/or organizations. In this article, I’m going to share with you two powerful leadership principles accompanied by examples to illustrate my point.
Leadership Principle #1- People are more important than things
It was the day of our championship game and my dad, who was the head coach of my 10-year-old Mustang baseball team told me to get ready to head to the field. I looked at the clock and didn’t give second thought to the fact that we were going to arrive significantly earlier than normal. “It’s probably because it’s the championship game”, I thought to myself. I went into my room and carefully put on my warm Angles uniform, fresh out of the dryer.
Upon arriving, I noticed that no one else was in sight. The fields had not been dragged, the bases were not put in, and the lines have not been chalked, “why are we here so early?” I wondered. My dad told me to grab my bag and head to the dugout. As I crossed the threshold of the dugout a player from the other team, the Marlins, was sitting on the opposing bench. When my dad entered the field he shouted, “Hey Wayne! Good to see you buddy!” Wayne, who was the best player on their team grabbed his glove and met my dad on the pitcher’s mound. For the next 15-20 minutes my father gave him some pointers on pitching and hitting. I didn’t get it, this kid is on the opposing team, and my dad showed up early to help him? Didn’t he want to our team to win? Didn’t he care about the championship?
After the game our team ended up being victorious, I don’t remember the final score but I do remember that Wayne did an outstanding job. Looking back on that game, I cannot recall any spectacular moments, or even the thrill of winning the championship, but what I will always remember is my father’s great lesson to me:
Great coaches always remember that people are more important than things
Leadership Principle #2- Catch your players doing things right
I can remember it like it was yesterday, a beautiful Saturday morning on the baseball field. I’m pitching for my 11-year-old Bronco team and there was a runner on first base. Chris was my first-baseman and was holding the runner on. I was a bit uncomfortable with his lead off the bag so I decided to pick, “Safe!” the umpire shouted. After taking the sign and coming set again, I noticed that the runners lead was even bigger! I decided to deliver quickly to the plate. Jordan, my catcher caught the ball and made a snap throw over to Chris at first, “Safe!” yelled the umpire. All of a sudden my father (who is the head coach again), comes out of the dugout clapping and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Great job Joey!!! Great Job!!!” Did my dad forget our names? Chris, Jordan, and myself were the only players involved in the last play, Joey was nowhere to be found. Knowing that my dad is very deliberate in giving praise I looked around for Joey. He was deep in right field. When Jordan made the throw to Chris, Joey took a few shuffle steps to his left, or in other words, he backed up the throw.
My dad’s praise for Joey was so sincere that parents and players joined in on the congratulatory remarks, “Great Job bud!” “Way to go Joey!” Then, a smile graced Joey’s small face and an acknowledgement of accomplishment was manifested through a small fist pump. And guess what happened every time the catcher made a throw to first base after that? Joey was sure to back up. One of the best ways to reinforce positive behavior is to catch your players doing the little things correct, that simple principle will go a long way. It doesn’t matter if you coach little leaguers or division I university athletes, your players will respond to the way you treat them, which is in direct correlation to the way you feel about them.
Remembering the value of your players and praising the little things they do right will enhance their ability to perform.