The Red Sox get scrutinized on a day-to-day basis as much as any professional team in any sport. There is incredible passion for the Sox in New England and the media coverage is all day, every day. There is just a ton of interest and passion for them. So earlier this year, when the Sox weren’t playing great there were questions about the teams leadership. The media wanted to know who the real leader of the team was, given their inconsistent play and some issues that had come up earlier in the year that didn’t seem like they were handled in the best manner.
Leadership in baseball is a different discussion. Baseball is essentially and individual sport that is played every day for at least 6 months. Granted, there is a team dynamic, but it’s not the same as in other sports. Very little of baseball involves relying on teammates to be able to perform. Every at-bat is a solo mission between two players who really can’t get much help from teammates. So it’s certainly different from teammates in basketball or teammates in football, who need to work together on every play to find success.
So because the question was asked, Dustin Pedroia basically came out to the media and said “I’m here. I’m the leader.” It didn’t play out that well at the time, with people questioning why you’d have to come out and say that. Well, if you think about it, one reason is because he was asked about it. If someone asks you who the leader of your team is, and you are the leader of your team, isn’t the answer going to be “I’m right here. I’m the leader?” But that doesn’t play that well on the camera when it’s presented as a sound bite without the question being asked.
Leadership to me is not something that is declared, it’s something that is evident. Hopefully, if you are the leader of the team you don’t have to come out and say you are the leader. But if your leadership is evident, no one would really have to ask the question. This is not a critique of Dustin Pedroia or the Red Sox leadership (interestingly, the questions have gone away as the Sox have gone on a tear in August to take control of their division. Funny how that works). But it does make me think about leadership and how it is presented.
Leadership should be evident. It doesn’t have to be loud. In fact, think about the guys that have been on your teams that go out of their way to be loud. Are those guys the leaders? I’ve coached plenty of players who had alpha-male personalities, who were always in the middle of things and always made sure their voice was heard. Rarely were they the best leader on the team. If they have to try and assert their leadership by being the loudest guy on the team, it’s probably a response to the fact that people really aren’t listening to them. If you go out of your way to make sure you are loud, you likely aren’t a leader.
Think about when you watch a team play for the first time – maybe when you are scouting or recruiting. You start to figure out who the best players are, who the leaders are, who the most important players are on that team. And the leader may in fact be the player who talks the most. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the loudest. There’s a difference between being loud and communicating. As you watch them play, you recognize the importance of different players for different reasons. That guy who is going out of his way to be loud might be an energy guy and might be really important to the team – but it doesn’t mean he is the leader. A lot of times, that energy guy – who is essential to the team – is a little goofy and maybe a bit off-center or unreliable, but he makes up for it with the passion he brings every day.
Very often we associate leadership with being loud. But to me, the guy who goes out of his way to prove he’s the loudest isn’t the leader. Leadership is evident in a lot of ways, and loud does not have to be one of them. Leaders are loud when they need to be, not when they just want to assert control over a situation.