Bobby Thomson (age 87) died last week. Bobby delivered the most famous walk-off home run in baseball history—a three run shot that won the National League pennant for the 1951 New York Giants (over their hated rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers). Major league baseball was THE American sport in the 50’s, and New York (with the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants) was the epicenter of baseball. So, in the minds of long-time baseball fans, Bobby’s home run competes with the first shot at Concord Bridge (the beginning of the American revolution) as the shot heard ‘round the world.
Since Hard Lessons is about leadership, as I watched the news reports, my mind turned to the question: What is a walk-off home run for a leader? There are several valid answers, but the one for today is:
A walk-off home run for a leader is walking off (retiring, etc.)
with a replacement leader in place who will carry on without the organization missing a beat.
How often does this happen? Not often. Why not? There are many reasons—here are a few:
The organization is built around the personality of the leader rather than a passion for excellence, an enduring purpose, and compelling vision.
The leader feels threatened by anyone who is capable of taking over, so any emerging heir-apparent is exiled or ejected altogether.
The leader is puffed up with pride, feels irreplaceable, so no one ever quite measures up.
The leader is lazy and/or preoccupied with things other than the long term health of the organization, so little or no effort is put into selecting and mentoring future leaders.
The leader is actually a boss, so the best and brightest don’t stay long.
The leader has a “favorite son” candidate who is going to get the job whether qualified or not.
What would happen in your organization if you just walked off? Would it collapse, or carry on without missing a beat? The answer could reveal a lot about what kind of leader you are.
Let me know what you think a walk-off home run for leaders is, and don’t forget to register for the November 5th Hard Lessons Workshop.
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner