I enjoy playing baseball and I am a big fan of the sport — especially the Toronto Blue Jays. So far this year, the Jays are tantalizing their fans with their winning ways. We can only hope it continues right into September!
Recently I was facilitating an Extraordinary Leader workshop. This process is based on the rapidly emerging and innovative new field of strengths-based leadership development. As we discussed how it differs from traditional gap/weakness based approaches the discussion turned to professional baseball for parallels and insights.
Some professional baseball competencies include pitching, throwing, catching, hitting, bunting, running, stealing bases, strategic thinking, deciding on what pitch to throw, knowing the opposing team/players skills, and the like. No major league team tries to build a well-rounded player who’s outstanding at everything.
Each position has a few key competencies that define the effectiveness of that role. An obvious example is pitching. An outstanding pitcher will be one of the most highly valued and paid players on the team. No cares that much (especially in the American League with its designated hitter) about how well he hits or runs the bases. Or if a player has a 90th percentile batting average and has the highest RBI (runs batted in) on the team — he’ll be excused for being a slow base runner or mediocre fielder.
Baseball’s a great example of how a few towering strengths vastly overshadow weaker areas. We used this discussion to focus on the myth of the well rounded leader. Our research shows that extraordinary leaders are defined by a few profound strengths. Rarely are they well rounded and exceptional at all leadership competencies. The key is to be extraordinary at the key skills that matter most to the position they’re playing.