Consistently successful baseball teams—those like the Cardinals that seem to be in contention nearly every season—have a high degree of shared identity. The best managers have a unique ability to get extremely talented (and very well-paid) stars to trust each other and play together. With big-game talent and sometimes even bigger egos to deal with, the manager’s ongoing challenge often centers on how to create and keep a sense of belonging.
A manager like La Russa makes an effort to understand the players, bring them together and sustain an environment that balances freedom with accountability, control with discipline. And the key factor in all of this? Pride.
Players (and employees) have pride. While the downside of pride can be big egos, or bruised egos, the wonderful upside is the opportunity it represents to create strong camaraderie and trust among the team, two ingredients that can substantially affect success on the field. A proud team will play harder and will fight to the very end, even when it finds itself 10 games out of a playoff spot during the last week of August as the Cardinals did this year.
So will La Russa’s Cardinals beat Ron Washington’s Texas Rangers in the World Series? The coaches, players and fans of only one team will have their dreams realized. But given La Russa’s intangibles – short-term adaptability and long-term durability—“Cards” fans like me can rest assured that the conditions exist for our team to be winners year in and year out.
James H. Quigley is the former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and currently a senior partner in its U.S. member firm. He is also co-author of
As One: Individual Action, Collective Power
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