Baseball Leadership


I’ve always been a big baseball fan, growing up following the Chicago Cubs and playing baseball competitively through high school. Fascinated by the mystery of the knuckleball, the crack of the bat on a solid line drive, and hitting records that were made to be broken, the game of baseball has occupied a lot of my time. And now... It's almost playoff time.   

How a baseball is made has always intrigued me, which has led to developing Baseball Leadership as a model and philosophy of leadership. Two layers of rubber are wrapped around a core made of cork called a “pill” and then wrapped with over 300 yards of three types of wool string before finally being covered by two pieces of white cowhide and sewn together with 108 stitches of red cotton thread. The process of wrapping the wool string around the rubber-coated pill is done by machine, so the yarn remains under constant pressure. I see the process of how a baseball is made and the resulting product as a fitting illustration of this leadership philosophy and model.[1]    

A well-made baseball has substance and weight to it, providing the opportunity for the thrower to guide where the ball travels to its chosen destination – unlike a hollow whiffle ball made of light-weight plastic, being tossed aimlessly by whichever direction the wind is traveling. In Baseball Leadership, the core of the leader is Christ-like character, surrounded by the extremely important layer of emotional intelligence, wrapped over time by layer after layer of conflict and change, finally covered by applying wisdom to every leadership situation.


Core Values of Baseball Leadership

Christ-Like Character

            There is nothing more important than the heart of a leader. The heart guides every word, every thought, every decision that a leader will make in any situation. At the very core of Baseball Leadership is exhibiting Christ-like character. The apostle Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2:5-8 to:

            Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]

 

This is true humility, the hallmark of Christ-like character. Author Ken Blanchard, in his best-selling book Lead Like Jesus, says that if we want to lead like Jesus, we need to become like Jesus. “Jesus’ habits included spending time in solitude and prayer, relying on the Word of God, having confidence in His unconditional love relationship with His Father, and benefiting from the comfort He found in fellowship with a small group of intimates.”[2] By the power of the Holy Spirit, the transformation that occurs in a leader whose character is intimately shaped by Christ will inevitably lead to becoming more and more emotionally intelligent.

 

Emotional Intelligence

Research has shown the important connection between emotional intelligence and Transformational Leadership. Biola researcher John Rugg extends this research to include the five domains of “the Connected Leader”: compassionate love, humility, wisdom, and courage.”[3] He concludes that “these practices include creating unity around a shared vision, implementing the vision, establishing security and trust, nurturing development, stimulating creativity and innovation, and cultivating collaboration.”[4]

Emotional investment in others and exhibiting empathy as a leader is most often associated with Emotional Intelligence - a critical trait to possess in order for a leader to properly and appropriately handle inevitable conflict and change that comes in the normal ebb and flow of any organization.

 

Effectively Handling Conflict And Change

Much of the conflict we experience occurs as a result of our words in a certain situation combined with a heart that is often deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Our words become a powerful force as we introduce the fear of shame and desperate need for connection. The writer of Proverbs says that “reckless words are like a piercing sword (Prov. 12:18) that can crush a person’s spirit (Prov. 15:4) or even break a bone (Prov. 25:15). The tongue is a lethal weapon to others and ourselves.”[5]

            One of the most important biblical passages on resolving conflict comes from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 18:15. Our Savior urges us to address matters of conflict face-to-face and one-on-one, where possible, and in so doing, “the gathered church can declare the mind of God with confidence. Its united prayers about such matters are certain to be answered by God through the presence of Jesus himself with those who gather in his name.”[6]

Our very nature is relational, created for relationship with Him and with others – created for connection. This connection experiences ruptures through conflict and is repaired through relationship. As a baseball is wrapped by over 300 yards of wool string, a leader’s life is wrapped many times over in experiencing, handling, and managing conflict. It must be done and done well, because the stakes are high in ever-changing organizations, and conflict and change often go hand in hand

The more string that is wrapped around the core through experiencing conflict and change over time, the more resilience, maturity, and confidence a leader will attain. It is through making mistakes during times of change that self-aware leaders will make adjustments and learn from these mistakes.

 

Applying Wisdom

Biblically, the wise are those “whose lives are characterized by understanding, patience, diligence, trustworthiness, self-control, modesty, and similar virtues. In a word, the wise man is the God-fearing man; his wisdom lay not just in a static attitude of reverence, but rather in the conscious development of the mind toward wisdom in the context of reverence.”[7] Wisdom in Baseball Leadership is a result of the maturity gained through years and years of wrapping string around the core through rightly handling conflict and change, and applying emotional intelligence in a way that produces these important virtues.

 



[1] John Graham, “How Baseballs Are Made,” BallQube (blog), October 20, 2017, 1, https://www.ballqube.com/how-baseballs-are-made/.

[2]  Kenneth Blanchard and Phil Hodges, Lead Like Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2006), 155.

[3] Jon Rugg, “The Connection Value Chain: Impact of Connection Culture and Employee Motivation on Perceived Team Performance” (Los Angeles: Biola University Publishing, 2018), 3.

[4] Ibid., 18.

[5] Tim Muehlhoff, I Beg to Differ (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2014), 32-33.

[6] John Nolland, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 235.

 

[7] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Wisdom, Wisdom Literature. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House), 2150.