WAR (the Baseball Statistic), What is it Good For (in Leadership)?

No, I’m not talking about the song by Edwin Starr, the really good cover by Bruce Springsteen, or one of the funnier scenes from the movie Rush Hour. WAR is a baseball statistic that stands for “Wins Above Replacement.” Through calculations, WAR tries to summarize a baseball player’s total contribution to the team. So how does WAR work? Let’s say you were interested in how valuable a player really was to a baseball team, what that player’s real overall contributions were to a team. To find that out, replace that player with someone who gave minimal effort and did so at minimal cost. WAR would be used to calculate just how many more wins a player would provide the team over-and-above that replacement player that gave minimal effort under minimal cost. Just look at the equations in this snapshot from the Wikipedia website:

For quant-geeky researchers like me, this is cool. I love this stuff, particularly when stats and sports merge together. It’s a beautiful thing.

So what does the WAR statistic have to do with leadership? That’s when it gets even better in my opinion.

1) You as a leader, think about how valuable you are to your organization. How much more value do you give to your organization over-and-above a person who could be slotted into your leadership position who would give minimal effort at minimal cost? Is it a lot? A little? You have a lot of control over that, so think about how you can contribute to your organization through your leadership.

2) Now, think about the people who work directly for and with you. Use the logic of WAR. If your people could be replaced by others who gave minimal effort at minimal cost, how much more value do your people give your organization over these replacements? A lot? A little? If you said a little, you have control over that too. And frankly you may be failing at your job as a leader. You are gagging when it comes to the engagement of your workers. Our CCL research shows that when people feel supported by their organization and their leaders, they are less likely to leave, more committed to their organization, and more satisfied with their job. [tweet this]. You as a leader must foster the engagement of others at work.

So, I encourage and challenge you to think about how you can give your best effort and provide your best contribution to your organization as a leader. And then do it.

More importantly, I encourage and challenge you to think about how you can get the best out of the people who work for and with you. And then do it. [tweet this].

How are you answering both of those questions? Please share your thoughts below so that others can learn from you and continue the conversation using #LeadershipSolutionsCCL on twitter.


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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5 Responses to WAR (the Baseball Statistic), What is it Good For (in Leadership)?

  1. avatar michael moon says:

    I like it. It is like utility analysis but rather than comparing the utility (and subsequent benefit) of one human capital investment over another, apply it to the valuation of your people. What an innovative way to challenge the traditional “pay-for-performance” approach paradigm.

  2. avatar Bill Gentry says:

    Thanks Michael – I appreciate your thoughts. Organizations look so much at ROI and utility analysis, sometimes they miss out on the people, who are usually the ones doing the work. If they are happy and engaged, so many more things can be successful in organizations beyond just profit.

  3. Pingback: WAR (the Baseball Statistic), What is it Good For (in Leadership)? | Alvin Plexico, PhD

  4. avatar Zach Rutledge says:

    Love the article. I am a baseball fan so the title stuck out to me when reading through the CCL email. Article touches on some great points and is very applicable to a workplace. In reading it though, I think you used the minimal WAR reference incorrectly when combining it with effort, with regards to performance. WAR is about results/stats, not how much effort a player puts into obtaining those results. http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/6063

    Thanks for taking the time on the article and sharing it with everyone!


  5. Zach, glad you liked the article, and hope that the main point of it resonated with you in your leadership in the workplace. Good luck in all that you are doing. Bill

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