Leadership Lessons from a Ballplayer!


“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was also a great leader. I have no doubt that, while he understood his place in baseball history, he did not realize the effects he would have on generations of future ball players. I am also sure he had no idea of the effect the words above would have on many people. Those words were not what made him a leader, it was his action. Mr. Robinson took on an entire society. He stood for his beliefs against hatred and racism by playing a game he loved and not letting anyone destroy his dreams. Words have meaning, actions are what count. That is a lesson we can all learn from today.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about the seven leaders I would ask to dinner. Several readers suggested that I make a list of leaders who are alive today. As I thought about this list one of my criteria was action. To be included at dinner a leader would have to pass the action test, not just the word test. A person like Nelson Mandela would certainly fit into that model.  But at the same time in many leaders I see a lot of talk and not a lot of action. Please don’t get me wrong we have a lot of great business leaders in the world. Bill Gates, Jack Welsh and many others have done incredible things with technology and business leadership. But where are the social leaders of today? The people or person like President Mandela, President Lincoln, Martin Luther King or Jackie Robinson that lead social revolution and helped us build a better world.

 “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” –Jackie Robinson

One of #42’s strengths was shown in this quote. He wasn’t swayed by people liking him or not liking him. He wasn’t swayed by polls, or news stories or the people booing him in the stands. He believed in what he was doing and went out on the field and got it done. Today it seems our leaders are more swayed by what people think of them than by doing the right thing. They are more interested in protecting their brand than finding solutions to the issues of the day. In a way it is hard to blame them completely. Public figures are analyzed and critiqued more today than ever. Not only is every word looked at but the tone and context is broken down. Normally at least 50% of those commenting think they can do a better job or it should be done differently, although they won’t step out and take the challenge. Yet we don’t hold them accountable for what they say. Great leadership must overcome the words of others and take action. Few are willing to do that in today’s world.

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” – Jackie Robinson

So let’s all be honest; how many of us are spectators? Watching and waiting for the things we want to come to us, instead of going out and making it happen. Until I started to write this blog I was 100% guilty of being a spectator. For me this is the first step in trying to make a difference. If my writings have an influence on one person they are worth the time and effort. More importantly if they have an influence on my children and help them grow they will be part of my legacy. Most of us will not be in a place where we will influence the future of the world. At the same time we have the ability to make a difference when we decide to do so. With our children, in our communities, in our businesses, in our state or in our country we can make a difference by being involved and working to do the right things. We can make a difference by taking action and walking our talk not just talking.

Let’s think about this in another way. If Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Regan or many other of our great leaders of the past had been more concerned with their brand then with their beliefs and finding solutions we would have missed out on some great social change. If Jackie Robinson had given up on his dream of playing major league baseball would the game be the same today? We are in need of great leaders that will make their brand, action and not words. That will not worry about the things people say but will work towards solutions for today’s problems. That will make a difference in the lives of people.


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