Saturday, January 23, 2010

Leaders That Go The Distance

On September 6, 1995, thousands of fans packed Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles were playing host to the California Angels. President Bill Clinton was in attendance, but only as a spectator to the history that was about to be made.

The history being made this night would be voted by fans as the “Most Memorable Moment” in baseball history. In the fourth inning Cal Ripken, Jr. stepped to the plate and hit a homerun. As thrilling as that moment was, history still had not been made. After the Angels’ half of the fifth inning was over, it was official. The 56-year record held by Lou Gehrig for the most consecutive games played (2,130), now belonged to “The Iron Man” Cal Ripken, Jr.

A Hall of Fame player, Ripken was the ultimate role model for little leaguers and aspiring major league players both then and now. He is a member of the 3,000 hit club including 431 home runs. Ripken continued the consecutive game streak by an additional 502 games, a record that still stands at 2,632 games.

After breaking Gehrig’s record, Ripken said, “Tonight, I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig, I'm truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath. Some may think our strongest connection is because we played many consecutive games. Yet I believe in my heart that our true link is a common motivation-a love of the game of baseball, a passion for our team and a desire to compete on the very highest level.”

Leaders who go the distance can learn valuable lessons from Ripken and his example. John Maxwell said, “The heartbeat of leaders is what they love to do. The priorities of leaders is what they have to do…” Are you a leader who is willing to go the distance to be the best you can be? Leaders who go the distance have an understanding of these three principles.

Leaders who go the distance have clear priorities. Never has there been a time when it is so easy to be distracted by the “tyranny of the urgent’. Dwight Eisenhower said, “The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first-a process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.”

The more advanced we become in terms of technology and communications the more distracted we become. Leaders who go the distance are individuals who not only have a clear agenda but are executing it. While it might sound monotonous, a 56-year record broken by Ripken was done on days when I am sure he didn’t feel like it. Once priorities are settled, it opens new doors to enjoy the second characteristic.

Leaders who go the distance are passionate. Once again, hear the words of Ripken, “Yet, I believe in my heart that our true link is a common motivation-a love of the game of baseball, a passion for our team…” Without a love for the game and passion to energize him, Ripken would not have broken the record.

What about you? What is your passion? The pursuit of your passion is realized when you have a clear set of priorities that guide you and keep you on the right path. Warren G. Bennis once said, “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and his dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” It’s the same with your passion. Priorities will be there to keep you on track.

Leaders who go the distance fulfill their purpose. Leadership’s ultimate achievement is not to attain a title or position. It is to expand your sphere of influence for good and to causes greater than yourself. Kenneth Hildebrand summarized it correctly when he said, “Strong lives are motivated by strong purposes.”

Now retired from baseball, Cal Ripken, Jr. devotes his time and energy for causes through his foundation. His purpose now is to support little league baseball and many other notable charities. As remarkable as his baseball career was, his lasting legacy- that of fulfilling his purpose is truly inspiring.

Are you a leader ready to go the distance? Set your priorities, embrace your passion, live your purpose.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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