As many of you know, I am a diehard St Louis Cardinals baseball fan. I grew up in central Illinois, and I remember most summer evenings that my Dad, brother, and I were listening to Harry Carey and Jack Buck announce Cardinal games on KMOX out of St. Louis.

So like last year in October, I have been thoroughly enjoying watching the Cards battle in the playoffs with the hope of putting another World Championship under their belt. I think there are a lot of leadership lessons that can be learned from sports, and the Cardinals playoff run this year is no different.

I have detected the following leadership lessons from this season’s MLB playoffs:

  • Everyone is replaceable – No one person is above the team
    • The Cardinals lost arguably the best player in baseball (Albert Pujols) and the best manager in baseball (Tony LaRussa) and they are in the same position this year as last, battling in the playoffs for a world championship.
  • It is not over until it’s over – Never give up!
    • The Cards have come back to win numerous times, but none more dramatic than when they were down by 6 runs in the final game with the Washington Nationals to advance to the NLCS championship series. They scored four runs in the ninth, and twice were down to their last strike and managed to keep the game going until they emerged victorious.
  • You can will yourself to win – Positive attitudes are contagious – Dream big dreams
    • In that final game with the Nationals, when the Cards were down by 6 runs, the players in the dugout started talking about the “epic” comeback that was coming. Their enthusiasm for this epic comeback kept building until the culmination of the win in the final inning. 
  • It is about the team – never about any one individual
    • It seems every game the Cardinals have a new player step up and get a huge hit, make a big defensive play, or pitch a big game. They are a group of unselfish players that only care about the success of the team.
  • Winning is contagious – And can become a tradition
    • It is not an accident that you see the same teams more often than not in the playoffs. The Cardinals have great ownership, great leadership, great players, and great fans. A solid, positive tradition of excellence leads to a high performing culture.

There are many more great leadership lessons that could be mentioned, many of which emulate from the positive attributes and behaviors of the Cards new manager, Mike Matheny. You can never underestimate the importance of great leadership for a high performing team!

What leadership lessons have you detected from this year’s MLB Playoffs?

Mark Deterding