Saturday, August 7, 2010

Leadership Lessons from Red Sox Nation

Baseball isn’t a life-and-death matter, but the Red Sox are.
- Boston columnist Mike Barnicle

Forbes magazine released the results of a study last week that ranked the best sports fans in America. The study revealed that Boston Red Sox fans are best in the nation. The criteria cited were attendance figures from home and away games, merchandise sales figures, and the results of surveys that determined teams’ in-market popularity.

While the results of the survey might come as a surprise to fans in larger markets such as New York or Los Angeles, it comes as no surprise to the Red Sox faithful. As one brought up a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I married into Red Sox Nation. When the Red Sox swept my beloved Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

As an adopted member of Red Sox Nation, I know something about the passion, zeal, and heart of Red Sox fans during good times and bad. As a sports enthusiast with a passion for leadership, it’s not too hard to draw the parallels when it comes to being a leader along with the highs and lows of the game. From the best fans in the nation -- Red Sox Nation, come four leadership lessons to encourage you regardless of the team you cheer for.

Faithful to the team. Whether in the hunt for the division title or playing through a disappointing season already determined; Red Sox fans support their team. Be it the morale of a major league baseball team or of your organization, faithful support is earned, not a right.

Building a loyal following to your company or brand requires something special. The value of your product while important is secondary to the value that you place in your customer. Red Sox fans appreciate the history, tradition, and great rivalries that have endeared them to the hearts of the faithful. In short, faithful followers are earned through faithful service.

Aspire to be the best. Some of greatest baseball players of all time have suited up in a Red Sox uniform. From Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Pesky, Carlton Fisk, and Jim Rice to name only a few, these have added to the lore and legend of Red Sox Nation.

Cultivating a climate of excellence in your organization is not achieved by accident. Commitment is made at every level to be the best. Red Sox fans have come to expect over the long haul a team that will field the best players to give them every advantage possible to win. When your company creates the same standard of excellence and expectation, good things will come, but it begins with a commitment to be the best.

Never quit believing. If there is one characteristic that describes Red Sox fans it would be enduring. The first World Series championship for the Red Sox came in 1903 against Pittsburgh. After winning the 1918 series against the Cubs, the Red Sox agonized for the next 86 years until the title came back to Fenway. The alleged “Curse of the Bambino” was finally put to rest.

The heart of your organization is celebrated in the good times. The character of your organization is built during the down times. Over the years, Red Sox fans have developed a lot of heart and character that has earned them the distinction as the most dedicated fans in the country. It has been a long journey on the road to this honor, and it will be the same for you. Regardless of what your business looks like today, never quit believing that your best days are ahead of you.

Sing like nobody’s business. One of the highlights of any visit to Fenway Park takes place before the bottom of the 8th inning. It is a tradition that began in the 1990’s and continues today. Whether the Red Sox are winning or losing, from the public address system comes Neil Diamond’s hit tune, Sweet Caroline. Fans are on their feet, everyone is singing, and Fenway Park is rocking.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “Most people will go to their graves with their music still in them.” In this economy many have turned their focus to what they have lost and what the future has in store for them. But uncertain days give way to confident leaders. No matter how things look, confident leaders never quit believing…and singing.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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