4 Keys to Hitting a Baseball…and Being an Effective Leader
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
During the off season from baseball scouting, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of coaches on the subject of leadership. I was delighted when a well known college head baseball coach in the audience cornered me at the end, introduced himself and said, “I really appreciated what you had to say, it stretched my thinking about leadership.”
This influential college coach went on to say how hitting a baseball really does have a lot in common with leadership. Over 35 years ago, while in spring training as a young baseball prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization, the great Hall of Fame hitter, Ted Williams took me off to the side and said; “Son, the most difficult thing you will ever do in sports is hit a baseball.” I assure you, he was correct!
If you have ever been a baseball coach you likely know that hitting a baseball really boils down to four characteristics. Vision, Timing, Rhythm and Balance. A great hitter and a great leader can truly appreciate the importance of all four – because all four have very common characteristics! Let me explain…
Vision: First and foremost, if you can’t see, you won’t hit. If you don’t have good vision, it is nearly impossible to hit a baseball with any consistency. As a leader, if you don’t have a vision for what you are trying to accomplish, you have no chance of “hitting” your target. In fact, without vision, you don’t even know what your target is. Once you identify your vision, then focus! Think about a great hitter, If he’s focused at a spot on the ball and misses ever so slightly, he can still make contact. However, on the other hand, If he’s focused at a spot on the ball and misses ever so slightly, he may strike out. The more you are able to focus and narrow your vision, the more likely you are to hit and square up your target. Vision is vital in your leadership! Lewis Carroll once said; “If you don’t know where you are going – any road will get you there.” Without clear vision you won’t be a productive hitter, and you won’t be able to lead others effectively. Your team and leadership influence will be in for very rough waters ahead.
Timing: Great hitters display outstanding timing. They are not too early and are rarely late too the ball. In leadership, often times great decisions are more about timing than they are about your intellect. Just like a hitter must display impeccable timing to square up the ball consistently – a leader must also master the moment they are in. Move too fast and you risk being reckless. You can cause more harm than good. Decide too slow and you’re too late. You can do the right thing, in the right way, but at the wrong time, and still end up with a mess on your hands. Pay close attention to not only what to do…but when to do it! Timing is key to being a productive hitter and a productive leader.
Rhythm: Without good rhythm, a hitter will fail more than he will succeed. The great hitters have easy, fluid bat actions. They make it look effortless, because they have fluid rhythm in their swing and hitting approach. So do leaders. There are times to push, challenge, motivate, encourage, and times to back off. Times to grind through it, and times to get away and rest. Great leaders understand what buttons to push and when to push them. They do it effortlessly. They have trained and developed their leadership skills to the point that they have great leadership rhythm. If you sense your team is tired, maybe one or two off days are in order. If everyone is bored, then raise the “incentive bar” a bit. Good rhythm in hitting and leadership is very important for sustained success!
Balance: As we all know, great athletes and great hitters have tremendous balance. In general, they all have great feet – light and quick! Likewise, the best leaders are really good at staying balanced in their life. They don’t get to high or to low. They are balanced and steady. They model this to those they are leading. They have principles that are “non-negotiable’s” built in to their life – and remain true to them day in and day out. As a leader, there will never be a time when you don’t feel pulled in many directions. You have several different plates spinning at the same time and you are doing your best to keep them well balanced. The job plate, family plate, children plate, exercise plate, team plate, coaches plate, athletes plate, recruiting plate, upper management plate, administration plate, and spiritual plate. The list of plates can be endless. It happens daily. Expect it. However, always remember that in leadership and life “Balance” is simply learning to operate in the center of the tension. Nothing more and nothing less. If you can narrow it down – balance the following three in order, you will find yourself much more in balance if you do. “God, Family, and Career.” We usually have more challenges in our life and leadership when these three are flip flopped. Balance is vital!
Above all else, CARE! Remember, those you are leading and influencing really don’t care how much you know….until they really know how much you care!
Vision, Timing, Rhythm, and Balance. Hopefully they will bring you much success in 2018. Not only on your team, but in your life of leadership and influence as well.
Have a great week!
Kevin Burrell has worked in professional baseball as both a player and MLB scout for the past 32 years, and currently serves on staff with the Chicago White Sox as an area scouting supervisor. Kevin was drafted in the 1st round of the 1981 free agent amateur draft (25th selection overall) by the Boston Red Sox, and played ten years of professional baseball with four different organizations. He and his wife, Valerie, live in Sharpsburg, Ga. with their two children.
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