Is there a correlation between Leadership and Management in sports/baseball? Is it important to be a leader as a manager and vice versa? Are we saying the same thing when we say “leadership” and “management”?
Glad you asked.
First, before we launch into some far too often explored yet sometimes misunderstood sports/baseball strong held truths, let me start by saying if you research (re: google) the words Leadership and Management, you’re going to find strong opinions on why these two things are not the same. A small sampling if you will:
- Leaders lead people, managers manage task.
- Leadership and management are two notions that are often used interchangeably but these words actually describe two different concepts.
- To lead, be a coach, not a manager.
- Leadership is an asset a successful manager must possess.
By now, you probably have a very good idea where I’m heading with this so let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way: Cecil Cooper showed all of us that while he could manage task well enough to be successful in baseball (stop laughing, he wasn’t that bad a “manager”), his leadership skills left a little to be desired. Was that important? Yes, somewhat. No, make that very much so. I know some will argue that even managing task were a boon-doggle for Coop. Thank you Geoff Blum, now sit down please. So what is the big deal about leadership to manage a baseball team? You got nine guys, a ball, some gloves, some bats and all you have to do is make sure you manage the strategy and let the players do the rest. Okay, here is why in many ways it is very important. Leadership comes in two flavors on a baseball team: peer-to-peer, or better said veteran-to-not-so-veteran and of course manager-to-player. If this is true, why is the duality of leadership needed? Can’t players do that leadership thingy and thus allow the manager to just concentrate on filling out a lineup card correctly?
Glad you asked (part two).
Where some fall in the long held truths in baseball when it comes to managers is that the manager’s job is to manage the task within a game, a series and of course a very long season. Do that well and you will succeed they say. Whitey Herzog may have not been the first one to say it, but he is well known to repeat it often enough: “To win in baseball, you need a lot of luck and a strong bullpen”. I don’t disagree that if you have the talent, the depth on the bench, good to great pitching and a little bit of luck come your way, you can be so-so as a leader and yet manage strategy well enough to be the next manager to get a ring with the word “World Series Champion” inscribed on it. But tell me something, how many teams outside of New York, Boston or Los Angeles have the sort of money to insure themselves against a manager who really has little to no leadership skills whatsoever? Okay, I agree: not many. Certainly not the Houston Astros, the team we all root for and of course the team with an owner who just won’t act like a spend crazy lunatic owner who will buy the next World Championship.
I’m not bitter. Really.
So back to what we’re talking about – leadership and management. I do believe that if you have a strong player/leader presence in the clubhouse, you will mitigate the very skill lacking in a manager. In fact, some managers will welcome not having to display leadership qualities because most of them learned how to manage by the very people who managed them. By and large, it’s been about players policing themselves in terms of leadership and of course managers managing the task and the two being somewhat working in a symbiotic relationship. You probably already figured out that the best years that the Houston Astros franchise has ever had were the same years that number 5 and 7 donned the uniform of the local nine. In fact, it was not such a good idea for a manager to try and become a vocal, even harsh “leader” for the team during that time because it could clash with the two player’s influence on the others. I give you Terry Collins for example, a manager prone to bouts of vitriolic rants to try and prove his leadership ability. All for naught too.
So who could blame a managerial candidate really not wanting or even expecting to be a leader in the Houston clubhouse. If you want leadership, well that is what coaches are for, blah, blah, blah. Did you happen to hear these words this summer: “As a manager, all I can do is fill out the lineup card and try to change it every once and while to see if I can break us out of the funk we’re in”. Whether this was a statement uttered in defense of a lack of leadership or not, the end result is that it proved what most managers really do expect their job to be. Task oriented skills primarily and of course mostly.
With the absence of Bagwell and Biggio now very much accepted and stamped into the Houston Astros scene, the idea of a leader in the clubhouse to mitigate a manager’s deficiencies in this area is very much a necessity. You may think players like Berkman, Lee or Oswalt were the ones given the baton by Bagwell and Biggio, but the reality is that not many see any of those gentlemen as true leaders. In comes Miguel Tejada and in a few short years, this player who has little time in and around the Houston organization, propels himself into a leadership role. His work ethic, his attitude, his passion was rubbing off on this team, so perhaps there was a chance of the symbiotic relationship blossoming in Houston this summer. Leadership and Management, wow, it can happen. And then of course, some failed bullpen management (or abuse) during the dog days of summer plus some really unlucky health issues to key players, and there is nothing leadership and management could do to make it work. Wrong moves on management side could only make it worse, and there was some of that for sure.
So where are the Houston Astros today?
As of the end of the season, you can pretty much toss a coin in the air if Miguel Tejada is coming back. My hunch is no, he will not be back, and I think it will be a mutually agreed upon split. Houston will not want an aging shortstop and Miguel will probably want to go somewhere else to play for his last shot or shots at glory. The organization for its part is in search of a manager. Be not dismayed at the list you have been privy to in terms of candidates, all of them can manage. Here is what I want to know:
Is there one amongst them that can lead?
About this column: We had to do it folks, sorry. We just could not bear the thought of stuff like this appearing on the Talkzone any more. It was killing our bandwidth and some of you (you know who you are) were encouraging this behavior by our author. So we’ve given Noe his own little sandbox to play in and you can count on his ramblings to appear here from now on. You can thank us later. Plus, Noe is encouraging your comments on his thought here if you’d like. That is a dumb idea but it was the only way we could convince him to let go of the TZ.