As some of you are probably aware (some more painfully than others), the San Francisco Giants beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series recently — four games to none. While the Tigers were pretty heavy favorites to win the Series, the Giants didn’t just overcome advantages most agreed the Tigers had, they dominated. Since the conclusion of the Series much has been written about the factors that led to the Giants’ win, and a couple of articles stood out to me. Both examined the leadership and teamwork aspects of the game and the Giants, and I’d like to touch on them briefly.
The first article comes courtesy of Jena McGregor (via the “On Leadership” blog), from the Washington Post, “In World Series, a Giant win for teams over superstars“. Here the concentration is on how the Giants focused more on playing for the team over playing for oneself — the idea that each helps to make the others better if they recognize that they are part of something larger than just themselves. This attitude came not only from management, but also from the players. A pre-game speech by outfielder Hunter Pence before a crucial game in the Divisional Series is largely credited with helping turn things around for the down-and-almost-out Giants.
The second article, “Leadership Lessons From the San Francisco Giants“, comes via Inc. and Brian Evje. Here, seven factors are examined that relate to leadership. Two stood out to me: “Know Your People” and “Play for Each Other.” “Play for Each Other” is pretty much the same stuff I mentioned regarding the first article. But “Know Your People” is an important part of the equation, too. The Giants faced numerous challenges related to players this past season. Some players were lost due to injury, some were added mid-season, and still others struggled mightily and were assigned new or diminished roles. The manager — Bruce Bochy — did an incredible job of juggling all the pieces due to his knowledge and relationship with his players.
The most prominent evidence of this, in my opinion, was in how Tim Lincecum handled his role in the playoffs. Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner for his starting pitching, had a sub-par season and was “demoted” to pitching in relief during the playoffs. His performance couldn’t have been much better, giving up only one run in 13 innings of relief. Bochy, it turns out, had a sit-down, heart-to-heart with Lincecum before the playoffs started to tell him that he would be pitching out of the bullpen and why. Lincecum, to his credit, understood and took the attitude that what’s best for the team is best for him and he was happy to contribute however he could.
There is a lot more we can learn about leadership, managing a team and being a part of a team from the Giants’ 2012 season and world championship. I’m sure much more will be written about it over the coming months. I hope you read the articles mentioned above, and let us know your thoughts about them and what I’ve written.