Tossed, Lost, and Still a Great Boss

I love baseball. It’s a sport that has bonded my family together. In particular, it’s been one team: the Atlanta Braves. My parents and I watched the Braves throughout the 1980s when they were horrible. In the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s, they seemed to win all the time. Recently, they have started to slide back to “1980s” form, but during that whole time from the winning of the 1990s to now, there has been one constant, the manager Bobby Cox. Watching him throughout all of these years, and noticing what players say about him, there are a few things leaders can pick up on about Bobby Cox. Imagine if your manager did this for you – or if you did these things with those you lead – the good that could happen.

1) Cheer and encourage others. When I watch a Braves baseball game on TV, I always hear this one voice from the field: “C’mon Frenchy” (or Mac, or Chipper) – whoever is at bat, Bobby is cheering that person on to get a hit. He’s at the front of the dugout, encouraging his guys. Leaders need to do this for everyone, from the “most valuable player” on their staff, to the person who may be “in a slump”- people need to hear that encouragement from leaders often…and sometimes loudly.

2) Stick up for people and believe in them. Bobby Cox is the manger who has been thrown out of the most baseball games in the history of the game (at least as long as the stat has been kept). Why does he get thrown out so often? When a player starts to argue with an umpire, Bobby runs out and takes the heat, so that the player can stay in the game – Bobby understands that if he is thrown out, the player will more than likely stay in the game. No matter if the call was right or wrong, Bobby sticks up for his players and believes in them. It takes a special kind of person to take the impending repercussions of what can happen when arguing with an umpire. It takes a special kind of leader to publicly stick up for others and believe in them, regardless of the situation or whether the call was correct or not.

3) Wins are due to the players, losses are the fault of the manager. Bobby takes all losses personally and he takes full responsibility for every single loss. For every single win, he praises his players, they were the reason why the team won. He never heaps praise on himself, he never thinks it is the strategy he implemented that made the team win, or that it was a player’s fault for dropping the ball that made them lose – it is completely opposite. It takes a special kind of leader to recognize that…to take full responsibility for a loss, and deflect praise from the self and onto the individuals of the team when a success happens.

When I read or hear players talk about time spent with the Braves, a current Braves player, players that have been traded from or left the Braves, or players who have since left the game, many times they say that of all the managers they’ve ever played for, Bobby Cox was the best. Wouldn’t that be something that you would want people to say about you?


About Bill Gentry

William (Bill) is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and also an adjunct assistant professor at several colleges and universities. In applying his research into practice, Bill’s current focus is on helping leaders who are managing for the first time in their life. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He received a BA from Emory University and an MS and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Follow Bill on Twitter: Lead_Better
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One Response to Tossed, Lost, and Still a Great Boss

  1. avatar Tracy Griggs says:

    Interesting post! The part about believing in your “players” and sticking up for them really resonates with me. This is the sign of a good mentor and boss… that they can “go to bat” for you. I also agree that it takes a special boss to be able to do this. What is it about bosses that makes them successful at sticking up for their players? Is sticking your neck out to take the heat for someone else is something only seasoned and respected leaders can get away with? If you are a new boss, how do you successfully stick your neck out without getting it chopped off?

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