Leadership One Base At A Time
The concept of leadership can be very complex. We cannot assign a single definition to this word nor can we demonstrate it in a single attempt. If practiced, it requires you to remain committed and one cannot expect to practice it the same way twice. But there are ways to make it easier to understand.
Director of Campus Life at Northwest Nazarene University, Tim Milburn did the definition of leadership justice by using the game of baseball as an analogy. I chose to reference Tim Milburn because I believe this is the easiest way to understand how leadership works. Also, in the spirit of the Major League Playoffs, I thought that October was the best time to reference baseball.
The goal in baseball is for a team to score the most runs after nine innings. To score a run, the team at bat has to run on four bases (first, second, third and back home). The only legitimate way to score a run is to touch all four bases in order of first to home. The player cannot run the bases backwards or skip a base to get to home plate faster. Tim describes leadership in the same way in his E-Book, Touching All Four- Living Leadership One Base at A Time.
He assigns characteristics to the bases called “The Four C’s”, which stand for Compass, Character, Collaboration, and Capacity. Tim describes the compass as home plate, which is where you begin and end. In leadership, the compass helps leaders ask themselves where they are going. Once a leader has direction, it becomes easier to lead others because that person knows where they are headed. Having direction will keep you focused on your goals.
Once leaders determine a direction and follow it, they reach first base or character. This is where the all too familiar phrase, “you cannot lead others until you first lead yourself” kicks in. Character is what makes you different from everyone else. It is who you are as a leader and what people see from you. Buzz words like “ego, honesty, integrity ethics, and fairness etc.” are what leaders deal with internally on first base. Leaders build character through the day to day decisions that they make and behaviors they show others around them. This is one of the true tests of leadership.
Leaders who have shown that they are fit to lead gain support from people and recognize that they can do greater things with more people than alone. This is when the leader reaches the second base of collaboration. Tim says that a leader, “…takes the time necessary to invest in relationships, to invest in people.” He goes on to say that leaders are leaders because people willingly follow them. Leaders build relationships by getting to know the people around them, knowing what they care about, and most importantly being someone that they can trust (this is why having good character is important). Relationship building takes time and effort. Great leaders are able to use these relationships to bring the best out of others. People who struggle building relationships will have a tough time leading even if they are talented and skilled in their work.
Third base or capacity shows what a leader is able to do and is seen doing every day. These are the gifts that leaders bring to the table. Leaders can be most effective when they lead from their strengths and know how to work with others in areas in which they need to improve. While it is important to recognize and work on areas of improvement, it is just as important to not let that dilute the skills and talents that one thrives on as a leader.
Now that the leader is back at home plate, they’ve scored a run. When leaders complete their journey, they return to where their journey began. As strange as this may sound, the purpose of the journey was to go back to the beginning in the first place. Why? The answer is because effective leaders are not finished when they reach their compass again. They keep going and use it to determine if they accomplished what they set out to do in the first place. This is usually the best time to reflect and learn from the journey. This is when leaders ask themselves if they found what they were looking for. So let’s recap:
Think about the work that you do with your student organizations and keep the bases in mind. Where are you heading? Who are you? Can people trust you? What can you bring to the table? And did you meet your goals? Remember, this does not end at home plate so keep practicing and watch your leadership skills build. You can find this information in great detail and other helpful leadership tips on Tim Milburn’s website.