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  • Writer's pictureChris O'Connor

Major League Leadership

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

With the anticipation of Baseball Season derailed by our COVID019 Global Pandemic, I can’t help but bring out my reflections on the Washington Nation World Series Championship last season. I’m anxiously awaiting to sit in my seats in Left Field as the club unfurls it Championship Banner, hands out rings and celebrates everything that seemed so surreal last fall as it occurred. But I can remember last May when everyone, and I mean everyone, thought that the Nationals were done - “Fire Sale” and build for next year. Thanks for cooler heads. What ended up happening was a wild ride that still to this day doesn’t seem real, even though I was there in Nats Park for every moment.

Was there some of that Baseball Magic that occurred last season. Was it a thing of “Field of Dreams, “The Natural” or “Sandlot?” I couldn’t resist throwing The Sandlot in there……. it’s a classic. But it was none of that. Well, maybe a little, but for real, it was about leadership and “heart” and believing in the vision and goals of the organization. It all began and ended with the Manager, the Skipper, of the Washington Nationals - Davey Martinez. On May 24th the Nationals completed the first 50 games of the season with a record of 19-31.

Hopes had been high and there was something to prove despite losing its franchise player, Bryce Harper, to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies. It was not where anyone wanted to be, and it was not really fun being in the stands at Nats Park. People were losing it and talking about next season already. But did Davey every let that get to him? Did he give up when there was talk of firing him? No…. he stayed the course. He started using the mantra “Go 1-0 Today.” Let’s win today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Let’s give today our all and things will get better. Davey is a great leader and he exhibited the traits of a great leader and team players over and over again.

In the face of adversity Davey remained “Humble, Hungry and Smart” as described by Pat Lencioni in The Ideal Team Player.

Davey not only lived this every day with his players and coaches, but he instilled these behaviors in his team, and it became more and more evident as the season progressed.

Humble refers to “the lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble team players are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek recognition for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually.” Not one National player or staff every made things about themselves. When blame was to be had, it was shared and when there was praise it was shared. The collection of post-game on field interviews with players would show you how the culture, the organization became so much healthier. No longer was it about one player, it was always about the team and the great things others did to help win the game.

Hungry is when the team is “always looking for more—more things to do, more to learn, more responsibility. Hungry people rarely have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.” Similarly, this team never gave up the vision and goals they set back in Spring Training. Even after going 19-31, they talked about going out the next day and winning that game and trying to do that day after day and build upon success. They always had the hunger, even as things didn’t go their way. They preserved through highs and lows; they had a shared hunger that allowed them to win the ultimate prize. It was evident in the 2 out late inning rallies that won so many games for them down the stretch. It hit all of us in the face when they came back from a 6-run deficit in the 9th inning versus the Mets in September. I wish I didn’t leave that game after the 7th inning stretch - never left early again!!!!

Smart is where they “are emotionally intelligent and have common sense about people. They tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to effectively deal with others. They have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.” This was the heart of what Davey Martinez accomplished with 2019 Washington Nationals. He was smart. He understood each player and what would inspire each individual player, what made them tick. He also had a keen awareness of the group dynamics and which buttons to push on each group or on the team as a whole. He had young guns, he had the Viejas, he had Baby Shark and he had the intensely driven pitching staff. He understood each and he found ways to push them to Go 1-0 every day.

This team and its manager are a case study that shows the power of ‘The Ideal Team Player.’ It has been fun sitting and talking to fellow fans and colleagues about the Nationals run, and it shows how leaders who invest in developing insights into their people can get them to reach their potential. This approach can be successful and rewarding beyond all your dreams. Right now, we are in tough times but remember what Davey Martinez said on the field after the final out of the World Series - “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places. And this is a beautiful place.”

We will get through this pandemic; we will bounce back afterwards, and we will find a beautiful place. How can you help your teams Go 1-0 Today and make it to a Beautiful Place?

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