If you have known me for long, you know that I am a diehard St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. And therefore you know that I get almost as much satisfaction out of seeing the Chicago Cubs lose as I do by seeing the Cards win.

However, I want to give credit where credit is due. The Chicago Cubs have done a magnificent job of totally changing their culture over the last five years, which has led to them making it to the World Series for the first time in 71 years!

After they won the National League Pennant on Saturday night to send them to the World Series, the announcers could not quit talking about the job that Cubs President Theo Epstein had done in creating a winning culture since his arrival 5 years ago.

Culture is Key

Peter Drucker is credited for the quote “Culture will eat strategy for breakfast.” But it isn’t just any culture that will do this – it must be one with a servant leader foundation. And you can take tips from the winning team to increase the performance of yours as well:


  • Build a “Dream Team”
    There is nothing more important than getting the right people in place. The Cubs started by hiring Theo Epstein as President in 2011 to transform the organization. He then went to work to build the dream team through a solid minor league system and some key free agent hiring’s, along with bringing on Joe Madden as the manager who has really turned things around.  Lesson: You need to constantly work to bring the right people onto your team.


  • It’s about the team, not any one individual
    In this day in age, you often see professional athletes flaunting themselves and giving others the impression that it is all about them. Not the Cubs. Player after player talked about others on the team, always deflecting the attention from themselves. Lesson: You have to build an environment where people understand that every team member is needed for success, and you only win together!


  • Be Values driven
    The Cubs have showed off their core values during the playoffs. Anthony Rizzo apologized and asked for forgiveness from the home plate umpire. Javier Baez, with a constant smile on his face, says he is just out to have fun while playing this great game of baseball. The team as a whole displayed their true selflessness, humility and commitment to excellence during the games as they made sterling defensive plays, key hits, and delivered outstanding pitching. Lesson: Determine the core values of your organization and then use them as the guide for all decisions made and behaviors within your organization.


  • Transformation does not happen overnight
    They lost over 100 games in 2012 and it took them four years to fully transform themselves into the team you see today. Lesson: You have to be patient and continue to do the right things as you build your culture.


  • Celebrate Successes
    The Chicago Cubs last won a National League Pennant in 1945. They deserve to celebrate in high fashion. It was an accomplishment that had been a long time coming. Lesson: Be sure to celebrate your small and large victories along the way.


  • Stay Focused on your Vision
    During the interviews after winning the National League Pennant, the Cub players each mentioned that the job was not done as they need 4 more victories to accomplish the goal. Each of them can see a preferred future of the City of Chicago celebrating a World Series Victory, which hasn’t been done since 1908. This is what drives them every day. Lesson: While you celebrate your incremental victories, never lose focus on your vision for a preferred future.


  • Stay grounded on what really matters
    One of the key player pickups this year for the Cubs was Ben Zobrist. Ben is 35 years old and a veteran in the league. I know Ben’s background, as his father was a baseball teammate of mine in Morton, IL in 1976. In Ben’s book, Double Play, he and his wife Julianna both recognize that all they have is a gift of God and they want to use them to His glory. Ben keeps everything in proper perspective and I think he has been an incredible influence on this very young team of baseball players. Lesson: The secret to building a culture of servant leadership is to bring Jesus on the team!


I don’t know if the Cubs will win the World Series, but they certainly have built a culture within their team that will make it possible. It has taken 108 years to bring the team back to this point, but what some have thought was impossible, may soon be a reality.

What in your life seems impossible? How can you play out these servant leadership steps in your life to achieve success?


All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 18:14