Leadership:  Trial by Fire

article by Jason Kuhn

During a training operation, I fast-roped from a helicopter onto a ship and began movement to take it down.  The second team was right behind us beginning their decent.  I then heard the unmistakable sound of twisting metal.  As I looked around the corner, I saw the helicopter crash into the ship and catch fire.  A week later, I was told that due to casualties, I would be a team leader. Becoming a good leader is not a trait I was born with. It is a skill I developed.  One I wish I’d had as a senior baseball player.  The first step is to accept the role.  Leadership must come internal.

Players often have more influence on each other than the coaching staff.  It is vital for teams to develop team leaders that are a living proxy of the team’s core values.  However, young leaders often feel pressure to be perfect leaders. There are no perfect people.  Therefore, there are no perfect leaders.  We can become very good leaders in the same way we become good baseball players.  Apply the fundamentals.

3 Fundamentals of Team Leadership

  • Lead by example
  • Pro-Actively Inspire
  • Own the results

1)  Lead by Example:  You must be the person you want your followers to be. If you want your team to be selfless, relentless, and have an attention to detail, then you must be selfless, relentless, and have an attention to detail. This is the foundation.

2)  Pro-Actively Inspire:  This is the hard part.  Every action you take, your body language, and every word you speak is doing one of two things:

  1. Inspiring the team towards Omaha.
  2. Justifying negativity to Loserville.

If you have enough energy to complain, then you have enough energy to inspire a teammate.  Be convicted in the mission and openly show your convictions.  Say what needs to be said before your coach does.  Mentor the freshman.  Give clear expectations and develop relationships through personal conversations. Affirm each other while holding each other accountable to the team core values.

3)  Own the results.  Both failure and success provide opportunity to build trust.

Take full responsibility for team failure and credit the team for success.

If you get beat, say: “I take full responsibility for today’s results.  Today will not define us.  We will learn from it and become a better team.”

If you win say, “I love these guys.  We are going to continue to get better.  I cannot wait to play baseball with my brothers again tomorrow.”

Leadership is not easy, but it is vital to success.  The player’s ability to connect with each other may be the single most important intangible skill they can develop.

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