One of the first lessons I learned about leadership is that the style of leadership must be appropriate for the situation. Steve Jobs successfully came back to Apple when they were in need of creative leadership. Carly Fiorina failed to lead HP and Compaq through its merger.
The games of summer–Olympics and baseball–give us some great examples of both successes and failures.
Ryan Lochte and other three US swimmers failed to be the ambassadorial leaders that we hope our Olympic athletes will be when the light is so brightly shone on them. On other hand, Katie Ledecky has refused to forfeit her amateur career in college swimming by signing multiple million dollar promotional contracts. She wants to have the whole college experience.
From the “Final Five,” there are Gabby Douglas and the little-known Madison Kocian. Gabby was in third place for the all-around competition after the team qualifiers, but could not compete because of the “two per country” rule. And her teammates were #1 and #2. Rather than reacting like another American woman after a stinging loss, she came back in the team competition in the uneven parallel bars, picking up the score that the team was depending on.
And little Madison Kocian. She was chosen for one reason, and one reason only. The bars. And she did what she had to do–probably better than anyone expected.
Then there are my Orioles. The life of a utility player must be rather odd. You never know if you are going to be playing–and you never know where. With a game clearly beyond reach, managers often call in someone who is not a pitcher to get through the last few innings. Last week, it was Ryan Flaherty’s turn. His job is really quite simple. Throw the ball, let the batter hit it, and let the rest of the team get the outs.
Baseball is the only game that I know of where the leader–the pitcher–can be and is replaced by someone who is not primarily trained in that role. Can you imagine someone at the professional level coming off the bench to play quarterback? But that’s what is expected of him. And he is always ready to do what needs to be done in whatever situation he is placed.
Think about the times when you have seen a pastor come to a parish that is deeply in need of healing. He is often chosen for the gifts he can bring to lead that parish through its grief. Or when parishes need to raise money, are combining with another parish, or closing a school. Special gifts and experience are needed to lead communities along these paths.
What kind of situation are you currently in? What qualities of leadership does it call for? Which of these qualities are your strengths? Which ones challenge you to grow beyond what you are comfortable with? How can you be or share leadership with others to move your community along a positive and fruitful path?