The Cubs win…a curse is broken, a goat is laid to rest, an interfering fan is forgiven, and new slogans describing a team need to be created. Those who witnessed Game 7 of the 2016 World Series saw the best baseball game ever played, and watched sports history made. Although I am a forever fan of my hometown KC Royals, I am a 33-year fan of my “adopted” team, the Chicago Cubs. Having married into one of those multi-generational life-long Cubs fan families, I am elated for my husband, his siblings, cousins, and our children, and deeply grateful to departed relatives who instilled an incredible sense of love for a sport, a team, and a city.
After watching postgame shows until 2:00 a.m., and feeling thankful that my calendar is clear until the afternoon, I know that what happened last night transcends baseball. As I peruse through media reports this morning, listen to ESPN’s “Mike and Mike”, and read social media posts from friends, I realize that the game, albeit incredibly compelling, was merely the culmination of 108 years of the greatest narrative in the world; one of faith, determination, and loyalty. They are the themes that form the foundation of great novels we read, lyrics we remember, and stories that survive the ages. They are also the themes that underpin every outstanding example of leadership I can recall.
Faith, defined as a complete belief and trust in something or someone, is essential to being a great leader. As we set personal or group goals, the desired outcome is often something we have never done (or in 108 years). Although most often founded in a lack of empirical evidence, faith is driven by a belief that a goal can be achieved based on glimmers of past success, or by sheer will. A leader’s ability to communicate their own faith in that ability is essential to inspire others to follow. No one did this more effectively than Theo Epstein.
Having faith alone, however, is not enough. Determination and hard work to push toward a goal is what truly fires the human spirit (especially a team) and provides the energy to accomplish. This is where the Cubs excelled. Joe Madden's “never give up” mantra became part of the team’s DNA, and every player reflected that attitude during interviews and press conferences. Any group that has determination to succeed stands a far better chance of accomplishment than one waiting for the circumstances or the environment (or weather) to change.
Organizations that inspire loyalty provide future leaders with important character traits. As with the Cubs, when life throws unexpected challenges, and the environment impacts our ability to recover, it's vitally important to have personal anchors that keep us purpose-driven and focused. With every "season" of our life, as new people enter and exit and our circumstances change, it is comforting to find familiar touch points; people and places we recognize, and around which we can rally with friends who share a common bond. As we meet people and have life-changing experiences, we find opportunities to create new sources loyalty to serve as anchors for future. At times they are mere affiliations. Sometimes they have such impact that they rock and shape our long-standing loyalties and win our new affection.
To most, it was an incredible game filled with everything you hope to find in baseball. There were leads, mistakes, surprises, comebacks, and successes. Two teams demonstrating their skills put on their best show down to a nail-biting finish. How they got there was through outstanding leadership, and although my comments refer to only one of the teams, I have no doubt the Indians' stories are equally compelling. Perhaps for the Cubs, the slightly extra dose of love over 108 years was what made the difference. Oh yes...did I mention love? Another important leadership trait for a future post, perhaps!