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Baseball and Organizational Health: Building an Effective Leadership Team

Intentional. It’s a word you will use often if you’re interested in creating a healthy organization. Dayton Moore knew that the owners of the Kansas City Royals expected them “to build a model organization in every facet.” The kind of organization you will build depends on the kind of people you have, and that’s where intentionality starts. The owners went through their rigorous process in identifying a leader and this would be Dayton’s first step as well: selecting his team. Not the players on the field - that’s still to come - but the executive leadership team for the organization.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage, says the first step to creating organizational health is to build a cohesive leadership team. This is more than just a mere collection of division or department heads – in the case of baseball: scouting, player development, baseball operations, support staff, etc. Lencioni defines a leadership team as “a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization.” The tension here with this small group is that they have shared values yet a diversity of roles and responsibilities, strengths and gifts, experience and expertise, and…personalities.

Dayton says that you “change a culture when you have a selfless mindset. Every decision our team makes needs to be about what’s best for the KC Royals.” Dayton was intentional in selecting leaders who shared his values and philosophy for winning, but who would also contribute the necessary abilities he lacked and most importantly, their opinions. In order for a team to achieve results, they have to commit to a specific decision or goal or plan and hold each other accountable to follow through. However, a team will be fully committed (i.e. “all in”) only if everyone has been allowed to weigh in on the discussion.

If the appropriate diversity exists on the team, this can get messy. Call it candid conversation, passionate debate, intense fellowship - whatever you want. But when the team keeps the focus on what’s best for the organization, conflict can be healthy! Lencioni says, “All great relationship, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. It is important to distinguish productive ideological conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal politics.”

Dayton understood this principle of building a cohesive team when he said, “I want opinions from people who have conviction in their beliefs and aren’t afraid to argue for a player or a situation. We want people who won’t shy away from confrontation! Good organizations have the ability to debate and argue – this is what keeps relationships healthy. Conflict, when it’s not personal and the end goal is for the right decision, is a good thing, and will lead to productivity.”

On your team, if you’ve intentionally surrounded yourself with the right mix of gifts and strengths, then you’ll have diverse perspectives and input. If you aren’t having regular spirited discussions, then you probably aren’t talking about important things, or you certainly aren’t coming to the best conclusions. Leaders select the right people and then build an effective team. They expect, encourage and draw out passionate debate which leads to the very best outcomes for the organization. In the next blog we’ll look at the foundation of building a cohesive team: establishing trust.

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