Posts Tagged ‘qualities of quintessential leaders’

world series 2014 san francisco giants kansas city royals quintessential leaderI’ll get this out of the way up front. If I watch a baseball team play an entire game (which is rare because I don’t often want to give up three or more hours of my life to something that, in the end, doesn’t move me forward in some way in the rest of my life) during the regular baseball season, that team is the New York Yankees.

Although I grew up in the South, my dad – who grew up listening to Yankees baseball games on the radio in Burlington, NC – was a Yankees fan and he passed that on to me. The things I loved about watching Yankees’ games with my dad when I was a kid was to see how much he enjoyed and knew about the game and how much he enjoyed sharing that with his family.

After Daddy died, I let baseball pretty much slip away from my active radar because it just didn’t hold any appeal without him to watch it with. Now I’m an extremely passive Yankees fan. I might catch an inning or two a couple of times a year – although I occasionally check their standings throughout the season – but that’s most of the extent of my baseball consumption these days.

However, during the World Series each year, no matter who is playing, I try to watch at least a couple of innings of each game until a clear winner emerges because I want to see what it was that got those teams there that year.


Because beyond the exceptional skills of a few players on each team, there has to be leadership and teamwork to get all of the players and coaches synced up enough over the course of the season to play the kind of baseball that consistently makes its way successfully through the playoffs to get to the World Series.

Last year, when the Boston Red Sox outperformed the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, there was a distinctive outward manifestation of the team-building that had taken place during the regular season – every Red Sox player grew a beard and none of the players shaved their beards until the World Series was over.

2014 world series jake peavy pitcher quintessential leadershipThere is an interesting link between the 2013 World Series and the 2014 World Series. That link is Jake Peavy, a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and for the San Francisco Giants in 2014.

The quality of a baseball team’s pitching staff is often a determining factor in how well the team gels together and how far the team extends its season. Starting pitchers are critical in this mix and, while they may not be the official team captains (leaders), they are often the de facto leaders on the field during games.

Peavy had good pitching stats going into his stint with the Red Sox, but after a dismal two-year performance, he was traded to the Giants in 2014. Peavy has not done much better in his first year there, including in the World Series.

And here’s where leadership and team-building and teamwork come into play. No one respects Jake Peavy.

I was very surprised to hear how the sports commentators basically trashed Peavy in the first game he pitched this year against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

Supposedly the objective and unbiased presenters of the games, these commentators made it clear that they didn’t expect anything but failure out of Peavy with their disparaging comments from the get-go.

The body language, facial gestures, and actions of the Giants on the field and in the dugout during game 2 and game 6 of this year’s World Series showed the entire team’s – including the coaches and manager – contempt for Peavy when he was pitching.

Although he was the de facto leader on the field, it was clear no one wanted him there and it led to the beginning of the Royals’ rout of the Giants when no one paid any attention to him during a crucial play in last night’s game (game 6).

The crucial play came during Peavy’s disastrous second inning when Peavy was telling Giants first baseman Brandon Belt to throw home and Belt completely ignored him and decided to run down the tag of the Royals Eric Hosmer at first base. Hosmer beat the tag.

In that moment, the lack of leadership, teamwork, and team-building among the Giants organization was crystal clear to me. It replayed in slow motion in my mind as I thought how those few seconds showed me all I needed to see as a quintessential leader to know that Giants don’t have it.

san francisco giants logoOh, the Giants may win the 2014 World Series, because they have a few great hitters and one great pitcher – who may be a clutch reliever tonight if starting pitcher Tim Hudson gets behind in the early innings – who might get lucky enough to pull it off.

kansas city royals logoHowever, the odds favor the Royals, who clearly have leadership, teamwork, and team-building in place. They look like a time, they act like a team, and they play like a team.

It’s taken the Royals 29 years to get another World Series-ready team in place, but the organization carefully and skillfully, over the course of several years (one of last night’s commentators said that professional baseball is different from any other sport in that it takes a lot longer to bring an athlete up to the skill level and capability to play at the professional level), ensured that the leadership, the team-building – individually and collectively – and the teamwork is in place for just such a moment as this.

Based on my experience as someone who strives to practice and continues to grow toward quintessential leadership in every part of who I am and in my life every day, I know that what the Royals have in place – and the Giants don’t have in place – gives the Royals the advantage of being successful.

What about us? You and me. Do we strive to be and work at being quintessential leaders continuously in every part of our lives? Do we even know what it is? Can we recognize it when we see it or don’t see it, no matter where we see it? 

The reality is that if we don’t live, do, and are something 24/7, then it’s not a part of us, of who and what we are. We’re pretenders.

And because we’re pretenders, we don’t know what the real thing looks like and are susceptible to falling for counterfeits and believing they’re the real thing, when it fact they’re not.

To know what quintessential leadership does and doesn’t look like, we must be actively striving to be and practicing quintessential leadership everywhere in our lives, even those areas and places and moments where nobody’s looking (those count more, in many ways, than the ones in which somebody or everybody’s looking).

How are we doing?



Unquintessential leadership is everywhere. Very few people in leadership positions even know, much less understand what quintessential leadership is. 

When we trace back and see how and when these unquintessential leaders were placed in leadership positions, we often find that the people who selected them were also unquintessential leaders and taught and mirrored the unquintessential leadership traits these people now exhibit. We also find that in most cases politics, personality, and a very limited criteria for selection – often superficial or technical – was applied.

The results of unquintessential leadership are reflected in the teams they are supposed to be leading. These results are devastating: to the teams and to the organizations these teams exist in. And yet the unquintessential leaders are oblivious to their responsibility for the carnage they – to a person, among unquintessential leaders, if there is a problem, it’s always the fault of others (“they turned on me,” “they were unmanageable,” “they were not team players,” etc.) leave in their wakes.

Unquintessential leadership, like quintessential leadership, has cause-and-effect results.

exaggerated sense of self-importance narcissism leadershipOne thing that is common and an overarching characteristic of unquintessential leaders is their own exaggerated sense of self-importance. This manifests itself in both subtle ways and obvious ways, but it’s always at the core of what unquintessential leaders do. Or don’t do.

An exaggerated sense of one’s own important is one of the most dangerous character traits a human being can have. It produces pride, arrogance, disdain, control, and the denigration of everyone and everything around it. It produces disaster and is one of the biggest enemies to what successful team-building looks like (cohesion, productivity, satisfaction, progress, growth, and profitability).

Let’s look at some of the specific characteristics that unquintessential leaders exhibit because of their exaggerated senses of their own importance and what the effects of those are, not only on their teams, but on their organizations – and beyond (if an organization is malfunctioning from within, then it is completely impotent and ineffective outside itself).

Unquintessential leaders are micromanagers. Not even the smallest detail can be attended to or decision can be made without their approval. The irony is that unquintessential leaders excel at minutiae, but they are either incapable or unwilling – or both – of handling the big picture and making big and/or tough decisions.

The effect on their teams is that their teams disengage completely and quit, either symbolically or literally. Oh the people may show up, but they are not there. Why bother? Human beings were given reason, creativity, initiative, and a need to produce, to grow, to reach their greatest potentials. When all of that is stifled or eradicated by micromanagement – which is really a lack of trust – a shell exists, but everything else dies. 

Team members who don’t yet have other options to go to will stay, but they are not there. Team members who have other options leave as soon as they’re able to pursue the new options.

Organizations with high attrition rates always have serious micromanagement problems, which, in turn, means they have a lot of unquintessential leaders in place.

quintessential leaders have a compassUnquintessential leaders try to control, through intimidation, threats, manipulation, coercion, and, sometimes, brute force, their teams. They insert themselves into every aspect of their team members’ lives, both inside and outside the organizational context, and try to wield power over each and every outcome.

The primary effect of this on their teams is resistance. No human being has absolute control over another human being. When this kind of control is exerted among human beings, resistance is the natural result. Interestingly, the net effect of this is the same as that of micromanagement: the team quits, internally and/or externally.

What defies logic for me is that often unquintessential leaders recognize that their teams have quit. When they do, unquintessential leaders then micromanage and try to control even more. It’s absolutely absurd. But I’ve seen it happen over and over.

Unquintessential leaders are inconsistent and unreliable. There is absolutely nothing about them that their teams can count on except that they will be inconsistent and unreliable.

The next effect of this is that their teams have no trust in the unquintessential leaders and the unquintessential leaders have proven themselves untrustworthy.

What eventually happens is that their teams end up bypassing them completely and going to others outside the team construct who’ve proven themselves to be quintessential leaders. Unquintessential leaders get angry about this, but their exaggerated senses of self-importance blind them to the fact that their actions have necessitated that their teams go elsewhere for what they need and require.

Unquintessential leaders are never available for their teams when they need them. They’re either too busy, physically absent, or simply unwilling to put the needs of their teams above their own needs and desires. You can never find them when you really need them.

The effect on their teams is disillusionment, anger, and resentment. The disillusionment, anger, and resentment starts building underneath the surface of their teams, but as this particular characteristic is repeated, that anger and resentment is palpable and evident throughout the team. It becomes something you can discern on a very tangible level in words, in body language, in attitudes. It’s an incredibly destructive force.

These are some of the more obvious results of unquintessential leadership (Qualities of Quintessential Leaders offers a stark and refreshing contrast of some of the results of quintessential leadership).

quintessential leaders changeToday’s question for you and me is simple. Am I an unquintessential leader or am I a quintessential leader?

As always, this is a look-in-the-mirror question for you and for me that requires close examination, brutal honesty, and if you and I are not quintessential leaders, immediate steps to change.

I am brave enough to look in that mirror and do the work of looking and changing. Will you join me?