Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Bambino Leadership

Volume: February 2021

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
   Babe Ruth

My all-time favorite baseball player is Babe Ruth. In fact, he and I share a birthday, February 6, a nice time of year. Everybody remembers the Babe as an incredible hitter. He hit 714 home runs in an era when 300 career homers was outstanding. He was not a one-dimensional player, either. He was an incredible pitcher who won 94 major league games (94-46 lifetime – not bad!). It was his slugging, however, that made him a legend. So how do legends think? What actions lead to their success? “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” the Babe would say. His philosophy was simple: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” He was also well known for taking pitchers on and not backing away from intimidating hurlers. The majority of his career he wore Yankee pinstripes, but during off hours he was known to be quite dapper. He could afford to look dapper, he negotiated the best paying contract in baseball. There are lessons for successful leaders in the words, actions, and achievements of Babe Ruth. Let’s take a look at five qualities to consider:
  1. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. If you are not making errors, you are not leading aggressively enough. Leaders cannot afford to make a lot of mistakes, but each mistake you experience helps you learn. This also brings you closer to breakthroughs that will make positive differences. 
  2. Take people on. When you or your team is faced with a situation when you are being wronged, speak up and do not accept a raw deal. Babe Ruth faced down fastballs. Leaders get to face down adversarial personalities. When the timing is right, get gutsy, and be able to do so in a strategic manner and on a moment’s notice. Can this trait be learned? The answer is “you betcha.” Keep in mind though, it takes a lot of work to come across as a sharp person who is gaining clarity on a situation, as opposed to a combative jerk.
  3. Possess diverse talent. Just as the Babe could pitch and hit, leaders have to wield a variety of styles as they effectively lead their people. As you lead an array of different personalities, you will also be faced with challenging leadership situations. Do not be one-dimensional and just a home run hitter. Engage in leadership development initiatives that expand your leadership capabilities and assist you in operating effectively in complex situations. 
  4. Negotiate.  In 1927 Babe Ruth’s contract was more than 10 times greater than other top players. In fact, his compensation exceeded that of the president of the United States! When asked about the latter fact, the Babe quickly replied, “I had a better year than the President.” In short, the Babe was able to sell himself. Likewise, effective leaders are able to sell their ideas, their vision, and their team’s accomplishments. In the process, they negotiate terms and conditions that are favorable to their organization. If you are uncomfortable with negotiating, get comfortable! It is a necessary and admirable skill.
  5. Be polished. The Babe was a stylish guy with a persona that created followership. Let your sound leadership capabilities create followership for you. In addition, enhance your leadership image by dressing professionally, staying fit, and being well-groomed. Yes, yes, even if 90% of your professional interactions take place via Zoom! Your attire and style should match your organization’s culture. Let your manner blend in, while your professional skills stand out.
Bottom Line: The Bambino, as Babe Ruth was affectionately known, was a baseball legend. He possessed talent, grit, vision, and spirit. He was undaunted when faced with failure. He was confident in his abilities to achieve goals. He won, and he won big. As you lead your team, remember the good qualities of the Babe. Lead with confidence. Do not fear striking out – just do not do it too much. Take responsibility for the success of your team, and applaud them when they soar. Look professional, and boldly lead in tough situations. The next thing you know you will be hitting the long ball. There it goes, over the wall. Now round the bases and gives us a tip of your hat.  
Until next time, be well.
Doug Van Dyke is a virtual executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. He has clients all over the world and is an aspiring virtual nomad. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, or to have Doug speak at your next event, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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