by Jack Warren, Top Coach host and editor
“History has consistently demonstrated that one of the top reasons why the wrong people are selected for leadership positions is because they are chosen based on prior accomplishments that have nothing to do with leadership.”
One of the most important decisions you’ll make in your organization is identifying the right people for leadership positions. One of the biggest mistakes you’ll make is choosing the wrong people for these roles.
Everyone’s done it – choosing someone for a leadership position who just didn’t work out. Most of the time it’s because our criteria for choosing the right person just wasn’t well thought out. It’s as if you moved someone into the associate head coaching position because he used great judgment while coaching third base or you selected your starting shortstop based solely on the fact that he could hit to the opposite field with power.
Identifying and selecting leaders requires the same judgment you’d use to fill other positions requiring a specific skillset. You’ll have some measure of expectation that a starting pitcher might throws strikes with consistency and display some endurance. When selecting your recruiting coordinator, you no doubt noted that this individual had some degree of communication skills and was available to travel at a moment’s notice. Why is it different with those that you choose for leadership positions — either on your team or your staff?
Leadership is often lumped in with those traits like communication and organization that we call “soft skills.” That term is used almost dismissively in many evaluations, relegating them to an afterthought. Leadership skills are not frequently enough held in the high regard that they have earned and to which most organizations demand.
History has consistently demonstrated that one of the top reasons why the wrong people are selected for leadership positions is because they are chosen based on prior accomplishments that have nothing to do with leadership. It’s one thing for your press release to note that your new lead/top assistant coach was all-conference and third team All-American as a player, but you better darn well know in your head what leadership skills he possesses to make him an asset to your organization.
The same goes for team leaders and captains. Just because a player is a senior and he was first team all-conference doesn’t necessarily make him captain material. I’ll save a more comprehensive overview on what to look in a leader for a future column, but here’s one technique to use right now. In your one-on-one conversations with your players, ask them, “Who’s the one guy on the team who’s got your back?” Chances are, most of your players will answer with the same couple of guys. That’s a good starting point for finding potential leaders.
You are not going to entrust your leadoff spot to a light-hitting, slow-footed player. So put the same degree of deliberation into the guys who are going to impact your organization on a more consistent basis than your closer. Set your organization up for success by paying attention to who will help you lead.