November 13, 2019

If you know me, you know I love baseball. So as a Nats fan, the 2019 World Series was simply awesome. (I even checked off a bucket list item and attended Game 4!)  What is it about high-performing teams that drives their success? Beyond physical skill and mental toughness… it’s leadership. The strongest leaders use candor to motivate, inspire and push for greatness.

To Go or Not To Go: White House Decisions

Pitcher Sean Doolittle decided not to attend the post-win ceremonial White House visit. He wasn’t the only one. On the other hand, catcher Kurt Suzuki attended and wore a MAGA hat. The team’s leadership allowed each individual to decide, trusting players to make their own calls even off the field. In doing so, the team accepts different perspectives, honoring and respecting each individual player. Doolittle, an out-spoken liberal, articulated his choice with candor – directly and sincerely.

 “…as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it… There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country… I want people to know that I put thought into this.” Doolittle said in an interview with The Washington Post

Perhaps, there are no two players in this game that need to communicate, rely on, and respect each other more so than pitchers and catchers. When Doolittle pitches, Suzuki catches, and clearly, they do so very well. Despite their opposing political perspectives, they are a seamless, winning team. Candor fosters this respect and it’s led from the top.

Manager Dave Martinez

Those who know Dave Martinez best describe him as inclusive, a great defender standing up for those around him, and a peacemaker wanting to keep conflict at bay – all strong values of respect. Perhaps his candor is best described by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (Martinez and Maddon managed together for a decade):

“The thing I’ve always liked about [Martinez] is he’s never been afraid to have difficult conversations. It doesn’t mean yelling or screaming. It just means being straight up with guys… He’s not worried about hurting somebody’s feelings or saying the wrong thing. He’s just attempting to do the right thing and make sure it works.” Maddon, The Washington Post

I find Martinez endearing – he is not afraid to challenge others or show emotion and vulnerability. After the Nationals’ Trea Turner was called out on a controversial interference call in Game 6, Martinez argued with the officials and became the first manager ejected from a World Series since 1996. He was open about his cardiac troubles earlier in the season, and cries unabashedly when he is overcome with emotion. In the tough-guy world of pro-sports, his vulnerability and sincerity is an honest display of commitment and passion. Cheers to the Washington Nationals – I am grateful for their leadership on and off the field, and am reveling in their success!