Friends:  

A few months ago we talked a little about leaders and leadership.  I believe I made a strange yet somewhat plausible argument for wanting to be a sailor in the British Navy in the 1700s, thinking that a fictional character who was on screen for a mere 2 and a half hours exhibited all of the traits of a good leader.  Since that time (more specifically, since Thursday), I have had a chance to reconsider my position.  Identifying your wingman will do that for you.

First, I will make a qualifying statement.  As fair disclosure I attribute all of the tenets and characteristics of a good leader to a program in which I was privileged to be a participant, presented by Colonel Nunnally, Retired, of the United States Air Force.  A former F-16 pilot, Colonel Nunnally demonstrated the traits necessary to be an effective leader, to command your organization.  I implore you to learn more about the program and the leadership characteristics espoused in the “Wingman Leadership Series.”  Check out www.yourwingman.com for more information.  You won’t regret it.

 

As part of the program, we were asked to think of a leader who we would look up to.  Astonishingly enough, as the program continued and the leader character traits were revealed, my selected leader materialized as a true leader, someone who met each of the characteristics.  Want to know who it is?  A hint:  He is not a fictional character.

 

So what makes a good leader?  I do not want to mislead you into thinking that my mere literary endeavor here will answer all of the questions and do justice to the presentation of Colonel Nunnally, so I will simply paraphrase and condense:

 

1) A good leader must commit to his charge.  Not only will he be personally accountable for moving the organization forward, he will also move the organization as a doer, not just as a caretaker.

 

2) A good leader will command three tasks: he will chart the path, develop the culture, and communicate solutions in order to educate.

 

3) A good leader will work to inspire and will invest in the organization. 

 

4) A good leader will create new good leaders.

Sounds like a heavy burden?  I think I have the perfect leader in mind, the person who I would look up to for guidance on how to be an effective leader, the person who knew how to effectively lead, with his passion, his integrity, and his intelligence.  Want to know who it is?

Tommy Lasorda–  was that really so hard to guess?

Aside from the obvious reason (because he managed the Dodgers), I believe that in all fairness he meets all of the criteria suggested by Colonel Nunnally.

1) It is indisputable that he was committed to his charge.  The man really believes that he bleeds Dodger Blue.  Can you think of a leader who so espouses a commitment to an organization or a philosophy more than that?  And the man was a doer– throwing batting practice, coaching third base, whatever was needed, he did it.

2) He charted the path:  Every year in Spring Training the goal of the organization was clear, to win the World Series.  There was never any doubt that a World Series was the goal and nothing less would be tolerated.

3) He developed the culture:  Publicly and privately, he praised the Dodger organization as the best in sports and he demanded that his players adopt the same policy.  Even to this day, many players feel that the Dodger organization was the best that they played for and why they continue to come back to promote the team.

4) He communicated solutions in order to educate: Can you remember a time when Tommy publicly ripped a player?  No, he praised in public and chastised in private.  Players will not want to play for a manager who excoriates them in the media.  But everyone wants to work for someone who praises them in front of everybody. 

5) He worked to inspire his players and his city:  To Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers were not a team owned by the O’Malley’s or the McCourt’s or anyone else.  It was a team owned and invested in by the City of Los Angeles and its base of operations was Blue Heaven on Earth.  No one could avoid his infectious charisma and passion for the Dodgers and for the product that was put on the field.  He felt as if he personally let the fans down when the team failed to succeed. 

6) He was invested in the team and its outcome:  He has worked for the Dodgers in one capacity or another for almost 60 years.  Can you imagine an employee that dedicated working for your organization?  And this was a team that didn’t always treat him well.  Imagine this:  Tommy was a pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers who had gotten the run-around from the team for years, shuttling him back and forth from the minors.  And when he finally made a strong showing to stay with the big club, he was demoted to make room for Sandy Koufax.  Yet his unwavering dedication to the organization remained.

7) He created new commanders:  Take a look at some of his former players who are now managers or have been managers in their own rights– Dusty Baker, Mike Scioscia, Bobby Valentine, Kirk Gibson, just to name a few, not to mention countless pitching coaches, batting coaches, scouts and front office personnel. 

Since I was 5 years old, I always wanted to play for Tommy Lasorda.  He was someone who could kick you in the rear when you needed a push and would be the first out of the dugout to give you a hug when you deserved it. 

Last– if you want to know if someone has got your back, take a listen to this.  Tommy Lasorda let out an obscenity-laced tirade when asked by a reporter what he thought of an opposing player’s three home run game against the Dodgers.  Instead of praising the player, he fights back.  He bled Dodger Blue and nothing else.  A true leader.  http://www.cylive.com/viewRow.do?rowid=28470&tableid=22253&p=1&t=&vt=&q=

This week, I am going to try to have a little Tommy Lasorda in me and be a good leader

Who is your idea of the perfect leader?  Feel free to post it as a comment.  I am interested in who you select.

Have a great week.

Rob

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