If only we could choose a leader from an entire hill of Beanes. Sadly, a more apt metaphor is having to choose from a desert – hard to wade through, at times uncomfortable, few ‘oasis’ leaders to be found, and many are just a mirage.
What makes Billy Beane a great leader? First of all, he is confident, but doesn’t have an ego. When we spoke, any time I complimented him, he blushed a little and immediately gave credit to others. But make no mistake, he trusts himself and is confident in his convictions. When talking about his management style, his facial expression is a combination of a smirk and a twinkle: “It’s just logical,” he explains.
Well, he’s right. There are a few critical factors – knowing them and how they all fit together needs to be understood. First of all, a leader must be clear about the desired results. I see too many that have a short-sided view – financial results only. Of course financial results are critical to the organization. In baseball, there is the need for financial health, or profit. But there needs to be the balance between the needs of the customer, and in baseball that is a winning team. Obviously, there is a strong connection between the two – a winning team brings paying fans to the stadium.
The next is the leader’s need to be aware of the impact of their actions and to know his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Beane does not watch the games as they are being played. He knows that they are exciting and emotional and does NOT want to make decisions based on emotions. He likes data and the relationship to results. And while he really likes metrics and analytics, he’s not an expert. He knows that, so he hires the experts. This is a critical attribute of far too few leaders: Beane surrounds himself with those who have talents in areas where he doesn’t. Too many leaders are intimidated by this and hire those who are not as talented or just like them.
Finally, Beane will solicit input and benchmark others (see my last blog) to learn and gain insight, but then he makes his decisions. He is unafraid of challenging convention and he has his team’s back. He got rid off the perceived all-stars, took the chance to develop talent, fired “trusted” advisors, and redesigned how he managed the team. He knew when to adhere to the commonly used processes and where to redesign them to support achieving the team’s and the club’s results.
As Billy inspires us to follow in his footsteps and rethink the way we manage for results, he’s building the hill of Beanes. It’s up to us to climb up and enjoy the view.