I have been a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox and am fortunate to have witnessed the Red Sox win three world series in my life time. In winning the World Series this year the Red Sox went from being last in their division the previous year to winning it all. It seems to me that what happened this season for the Red Sox can be instructive for the church (and for any organization). This is particularly true when it comes to leadership lessons. Here are three leadership lessons I see from the Red Sox for the church.
1. Everything rises and falls on leadership and an organization will never move further than their leader’s capacity to lead (the law of the lid). Some will recognize two of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership from John Maxwell here.
Last year the Red Sox were managed by Bobby Valentine. What played out publicly between Valentine and his players and coaches amounted to poor leadership on Valentine’s part. Valentine “publicly” questioned players’ resolve. At times, Valentine demonstrated a perceived arrogance that proved to be a detriment to his team and his relationship with players and upper management.
This year, enter John Farrell. By all public accounts, Farrell (former Red Sox pitching coach and Blue Jays manager) was an encourager and united the team around a common vision. He was able to seemingly balance the need to win with any particular player’s need for confidence. He did so masterfully.
One key difference from this year to last year was leadership in the manager’s position.
2. The second lesson the church might receive from the World Series champs is that it is important to get the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seat on the bus so the bust can move forward to its destination. The idea of getting the right people on the bus and in the right seat was popularized in Jim Collins’ best selling business book “Good to Great.” As much as John Farrell deserves credit for the Red Sox turn around so does General Manager Ben Cherington.
In 2012, Cherington shipped some valuable high priced players to Los Angeles and this freed up a bunch of payroll for the General Manager to acquire some less spectacular players. Though not as well known as their counterparts who were shipped off to Los Angeles, these new players played with grit and determination and came through in clutch ways. Thus, the front office of the Red Sox was able to get the wrong people off the bus, and get the right people on the bus.
The Red Sox organization was then able to get the right people in the right seats. Whether it was Stephen Drew at short stop or Koji Uehara becoming the closer by way of necessity, by the end of the season it was clear that not only were the right people on the bus, they were in the right seats as well.
3. A final lesson from the Red Sox this year was humility. While humility is hard to come by among professional athletes of this caliber it seemed like individual Red Sox players demonstrated true humility. In post game interviews they credited teammates, noted that different persons stepped up at different times for key victories, and that it all was a team effort. Many times they accepted criticism individually and deflected praise collectively to their fellow players.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. It is important to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. And, it is always important to maintain a balanced view of oneself. These are the lessons for the church from the World Champion Boston Red Sox.