Howard Fero is a big baseball fan. So when the Connecticut-based principal of The Leadership Doc first started thinking of writing a book on the best way to lead people, aligning it with his favourite sport seemed a logical solution. “I thought, ‘what if we looked at leadership through the eyes of Major League Baseball?'” he says.
The result is Lead Me Out to the Ball Game, which Fero co-authored with Rebecca Herman.
Fero believes that anyone holds the potential to be a great leader. “Leadership is not about the position you’re in,” he explains in this week’s BusinessCast. “That’s a mistake a lot of people make. They think someone is a leader because of what’s on their door. Leadership is defined by how people act, not their title. It’s about how we can influence people and impact others.”
Fero’s book lists 10 characteristics that make for great leaders (regardless of position), drawn examples from the ball diamond. Here are his top three:
In baseball, the best coaches are those who are fired up about the sport and its players, Fero explains. “You’ll be more effective doing something if you’re passionate about it,” he says.
But it’s not enough to simply love what you do; you have to communicate it, as well. “You need to show your passion to people around you,” he says. Why? When the leader is passionate—think: a coach jumping for joy in the dugout after a big home run—it’s tough for everyone on the team not to feel the same energy. “It gets other people excited.”
2. Support your people
In professional baseball, players can get into difficult situations: they might argue with umpires, or be up for a trade. The most successful coaches are the ones who support their charges when times are tough, Fero says. “Think about how much harder you’d work for a manager if you knew your manager would support you when push comes to shove,” he explains.
Again, communication is key here. You have to let your team members know you have their backs in order to get the best out of them. “It’s also about showing you’re always behind them,” Fero says. “Sometimes we just have to give support to people and remind them what they’re capable of.”
3. Create a winning culture
“A winning culture is when you have an organization that’s focused on the goal,” explains Fero. In baseball, it’s to win games. In business, it’s about whatever the strategic goal of the organization is.
In baseball, a utility infielder seldom gets as much credit as the all-star home-run hitter, but the infielder is equally important, Fero explains. And the best leaders make sure that that’s known across the organization. “We have many utility players in our organizations. They may not be star salespeople; they may be doing backend work. But that person is just as important as anyone else; we need them to produce well and make sure everyone understands that,” he says. “Leaders have to communicate to people through the ranks both the goal of the organization and their role in achieving it.”
For more of Fero’s thoughts, listen to this week’s BusinessCast, which you can listen to by clicking the button above or download by clicking on the iTunes logo below:
For more BusinessCast podcasts, click here.