Each year, during the month of August, I am treated to the culmination of the world’s largest elimination tournament, the Little League Baseball® World Series.
The best teams of 11- and 12-year-olds from eight regions in the United States and eight international regions compete for the championship in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. More than 7,000 teams from around the world begin competing during the first week of July and more than 16,000 games are played before the final tournament weeks begin.
The Little League Baseball® World Series always provides entertaining action but also offers valuable leadership lessons.
Lesson #1: Pay attention to the fundamentals. Winning baseball relies on knowing the rules and disciplined execution. There are the basics of hitting, throwing, and catching. More sophisticated skills like running the bases, blocking wild pitches, or throwing to the cut-off man give teams a competitive edge. Leaders shouldn’t ignore the fundamental skills that will make them more effective—emotional intelligence, self-awareness, listening, and offering praise.
Lesson #2: Practice sportsmanship and show respect. Every game has winners and losers. I am always impressed as teams line up after the game to congratulate each other. They exchange smiles and hugs knowing the friendships they made will endure beyond the outcome. Leaders often miss this lesson. They fail to acknowledge other’s contributions, make every decision about winning, focus on getting your own way, or refuse to extend common courtesies to competitors.
Lesson #3: Expect surprises. The tournament always produces surprising outcomes. This year the Southwest Region’s Eastbank Little League won the championship after losing their opening game – an historic feat. Most leaders know unexpected things will happen in life and business. Celebrate small victories, rally team members, and learn from surprises when they do occur.
Lesson #4: Love what you do. The players who compete in this tournament love the game. Their faces do register concern or disappointment, but mostly there are wide smiles and pure joy. A long home run often sparks awe, even from the pitcher. Leaders who love what they do are easy to spot. They possess a positive attitude and genuinely have fun at work. This creates a high-energy, inspiring workplace where employees feel appreciated and empowered.
Lesson #5: Provide coaching. The heroes in this annual tournament are the dozens of volunteers who serve as coaches. They know their players and how to help them in ways that fit their needs. Leaders should never overlook the value of mentoring and coaching. An inspiring and vulnerable leader is often the catalyst teams need to exceed their own expectations.
What are you doing as a leader to have a lasting impact?
This year’s tournament was filled with great memories, life lessons, and the joy of sportsmanship. That’s why there are big lessons to be learned from this Little League event.
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