A Leadership Lesson From the 2014 World Series Teams

I’m not sure if you have a dog in the fight. Maybe you’re from New York or Boston. You may be from L.A. or St. Louis or Detroit and feel like you got jipped out of seeing your team play in this year’s World Series, which starts tonight.

The Giants and Royals Share Something in Common

I do know one thing. The teams that made it — the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals — have something in common: they’re organizations that are attempting to build cultures among their teams. Sure, they want to win ballgames, but they both understand you can’t do that consistently if all you do is focus on scorecards. You have to build a culture in the club first. Healthy cultures lead to wins; healthy things naturally grow and reproduce. Culture trumps everything else. It’s why an average player can get traded and suddenly excel. Culture is intangible, but real.


I’ve visited a number of athletic organizations over the years. Many of them are toxic, full of self-absorbed, non-communicative “good ol’ boys” who have low emotional intelligence. Camaraderie only happens if they win. In all due respect, these guys (who were once athletes themselves) aren’t necessarily good leaders who create environments in which young players want to participate.

Did You Hear?

The Royals are perceived as a team devoid of stars… but they don’t lack heroes. Meet Alex Gordon, a lifelong Royals fan, whose work ethic is beyond compare. His pre-game regimen is unbelievable—and would tire out most veterans. Eric Hosmer got a game-winning hit in the playoffs and gave the ball… to his parents. Mike Moustakas made the play of the game one night, and when complimented by broadcasters, he responded, “Yes sir. Thank you.” Lorenzo Cain won the AL championship MVP award, and complimented both the leadership of the Royals and his mother who sacrificed so he could begin playing baseball as a high school sophomore. Dayton Moore is building this culture in a small money market… and winning.

The Giants are building a culture, too, and have already demonstrated that winning follows great cultures. This is their third world series in five years. Talking with the players on the major league roster, you get the idea they’re quirky—not your typical team of players. But according to my friend Jeremy Affeldt, they love each other, they laugh a lot, and they give teammates everything they have on the field.

What Do All Cultures Possess?

Think about the last time you visited a foreign country. Did you notice each culture possesses traits that set them apart from other cultures? Here’s what you find:

  1. Shared Customs.   (Certain practices they do that differentiate them)
  2. Shared Values.       (Certain qualities they hold precious as a population)
  3. Shared Language. (Certain terms and metaphors they communicate)

Both the Royals and Giants have become intentional about the customs, values and language they communicate as they onboard young players.

Our organization, Growing Leaders, has gotten to know many of the staff and athletes in both of these clubs. We’ve come to respect them, as they allow us to play a small role in building character and leadership in their minor league players by enhancing their customs, values and language. It is an honor.

I just need to figure out who to cheer for in the World Series. What a great problem to have.


 The newest season of Habitudes® for Athletes is out:
The Art of Navigating Transitions

This new season will help you athletes:

  • Persevere in the midst of new settings and challenges
  • Make wise decisions that keep them on the team and out of trouble
  • Overcome disappointments in both sports and life

Learn more here


A Leadership Lesson From the 2014 World Series Teams