Leadership Lessons from a Baseball Manager

The Baltimore Orioles’ impressive run to the Major League Baseball playoffs came to a screeching halt when they were swept by the Kansas City Royals this past week.  Even though it ended abruptly, it was a great season for the Orioles.

I think Orioles fans, like me, really appreciate post-season baseball because we went so many years without it. You see, there were many lean years before the Orioles hired Buck Showalter as manager late in the 2010 season.  But soon after he was hired, in the 2012 season, the Orioles compiled a winning record for the first time in 14 years; and they made it to the post-season playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter

What is most remarkable is that Showalter’s rebuilding of the Orioles started almost immediately upon his appointment as manager.  He took over the Orioles late in the 2010 season.  They had managed to compile a record of just 32 wins and 73 losses, the worst record in baseball.  In his first game as manager, the Orioles won 6-3 and then went on to finish the season with a record of 34 wins and just 23 losses under Showalter, the second best record in baseball during that stretch.

This is strong evidence that leadership can have a direct and immediate impact on a team.  Buck Showalter took the same group of players who had compiled the worst record in baseball and motivated them to achieve the second best record in baseball under his leadership.  Nothing changed, except the leader.  And of course, the results.  As leaders, we can make a difference; we can be the difference in the quality of outcomes our teams produce.

I heard a story last week that gives us a little glimpse of Buck Showalter.  The Orioles were leading the Detroit Tigers by one run in the last inning of their playoff game.  The Tigers had the tying run on second base with one out.  Showalter decided he was going to intentionally walk the next batter so that the Orioles would have a force out and a potential double play.  This intentional walk was a risky and unconventional move because it meant the Orioles were putting the winning run on first base.  Showalter came out to the pitcher’s mound and called the infielders in. He explained to them his rationale by saying, “We’re going to walk this guy, then the next guy will hit into a double play and we’re going home.”  Now Showalter had no way of knowing this for sure.  But he presented his vision to his team with confidence.  He sold it to them.  And sure enough, they walked the batter and then the following batter hit into a double play and the game was over.

As leaders, we need conviction to our vision.  We need to believe it, even if it seems like a reach.  We need to be able to communicate it and sell it to our team members. When our team members see the vision, they strive to achieve it; they are motivated to become it.

Buck Showalter is proof that we can make a difference for our teams.  Leadership can be the difference between a winning team and a struggling organization.  Start communicating your vision with conviction and believing in your team.  Motivate them to achieve greatness.  Be the difference for your team and great things can happen.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. – Check out my website at http://www.jvearle.com and keep me in mind if you hear of any opportunities to share my thoughts on leadership.

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog – http://www.jvearle.wordpress.com
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Website – http://www.jvearle.com



2 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from a Baseball Manager

  1. Question

    What is happening when a team is winning but the players are not happy individually with there role in the wins.


    Sent from my iPhone

    • Keino,
      Thanks for your question. This sounds to me like a team that is suffering from a severe case of selfishness. If players are more concerned about their individual roles than the team outcomes, they are exhibiting selfish behavior. To correct this, the leader needs to communicate the importance of team goals and team success. It’s also important to have individual conversations with the players so they understand their roles and so they can learn that every role is important to the team. The practice players who don’t play in the games, are critical to making the starting players better. Every player has a role and the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so we need to try to get the most out of every player.
      Hope this helps. Let me know if I can help further.
      Thanks for reading,

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