Three Leadership Lessons I Learned From Moneyball

This past weekend I went to see Moneyball. After reading the book a few years ago, I couldn’t wait for the movie to be released. As a baseball fan and investing enthusiast, this movie meant a great deal to me. Even if you’re not much of a baseball fan, there are some extremely valuable lessons you can take away from the story. I want to take a moment to share what I learned with you. If you’re unfamiliar with Moneyball, it’s a story about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his successful attempt to assemble a winning baseball team by employing a computer generated analysis to draft his players. Here’s a quick rundown- The Oakland A’s are broke. Their payroll is $40 million per year (compared to the Yankees’ payroll of $130 million a year). They can’t manage to hire players that might enable them to win more games. Billy Beane employs a strategy created by Bill James in the mid 1980’s to find undervalued players. He assembles a team of players that fit both the formula and his budget. They win 103 games, finish 1st within their division, and break an American League record by winning 20 consecutive games. Here are the 3 important lessons that I took from the story:

1) Don’t Compete. Create! Billy Beane had to find a way to win against much richer teams. Instead of competing with other teams for players, he crafted a new method to see opportunities that weren’t visible to other teams. This enabled him to make deals on good players which had little demand in the marketplace. How might this apply to you? Everyday, you are competing for opportunities. Your company is looking to increase market share, you want to advance, or maybe you’re trying to sell your house. Whatever it is as an alternative to competing, try creating ways to attract what you desire in your life. Creating is much more fun than competing anyways. There aren’t any hard feelings and you frequently create a win-win situation.

2) Ignore the crowd when you know you’re right. Since Billy Beane’s means for choosing players was different, most people were skeptical of his idea. The coaches, fans, media, and ownership all doubted him, particularly when his team got off to a bad start. Billy believed in his method and stayed the course. Had Billy given in to the pressure, there’d be no winning season, no book, and no movie. The 2002 Oakland A’s would’ve had an average season. It’s easy to be agreeable, to go along with the crowd, and to make the popular decision. Anyone can do that. However, it’s quite difficult to follow the road less traveled. And as Robert Frost said, “that has made all the difference”.

3) Look for the answer in your own back yard. Billy Beane adopted a method to analyze baseball talent that was made public in the early 1980’s. Billy employed the strategy with the Oakland A’s in 2002. Twenty years had passed before baseball management recognized the value of this player selection process. Think about that, the solution that many teams were looking for as the key to their success lay right in the pages of books published years back. Sports Illustrated had even picked up on Bill James and published reviews of his work. Baseball managers must read Sports Illustrated right? How many managers were fired after suffering multiple losing seasons? And not a soul thought to try something different? “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” -Albert Einstein. The solution to winning was there all along, the managers just had to look for it. There’s an awesome resource on this topic that I included in my Toolkit Page – Acres of Diamonds by Russell Conwell and it’s available as a free download. Check it out.

*For you Red Sox fans out there – Owner, John Henry hired Bill James to work for the Red Sox as an advisor immediately after the 2002 season. This is probably the single most important factor that led to the Red Sox World Series championship in 2004 that broke the “Curse of the Bambino”. I hope you liked this week’s article. This story had some good leadership lessons that I was excited to discuss.

Check out the Margin of Excellence site if you’d like additional information on reaching your leadership goals and personal goals.

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