Saturday, September 4, 2010

Follow to Lead

I took my son, Jacob (9), out for a little baseball practice this morning. He has developed a real wimpy throw, and I've had a hard time correcting it as have other coaches because he tends to acknowledge instruction but not DO the instruction he's been given. Jacob loves playing catcher, but can't go far in it if he doesn't strengthen that throw.

I have been fortunate to understand that baseball is not the end-all, be-all in life for my son. I do not define him, and I do not let him define himself, by what he can and cannot do on the baseball diamond. At the end of the day, baseball is just a game. For those who know me, that may be a shock for you to hear from me, but that is the truth. Baseball is just a game. We are defined by who we are in character, and God has given Jacob to me as a son to be sure he develops the right character.

Baseball has become an opportunity to bond with my son, spend time with him, and teach life lessons to him through a game platform.

Today, before I could make any headway with his throwing problem, I needed to really instill in him the importance on following instructions. There were some issues earlier this morning about not following directions at home that caused him to have to repeat tasks to correct mistakes he made the first time.

Why is following instruction so important for my son when I tell him almost daily that he'll be a leader of men? (I even whisper it into his ear every night when he goes to sleep, and remind him that I love him.)

I firmly believe that to be a great leader, you have to also be a great follower!

If I am in middle management, and my staff sees me openly disobeying my boss, I have sent a message through my behavior that it is okay to disobey authority. So, when I give instructions to my staff, completing those instructions becomes as optional as I have shown them through my disobedience to my own boss. It not only hurts the company, but it also hurts the individual careers of those in my staff. My disobedience becomes a dis-service to myself, my staff, and my company.

It is the same as a coach who does not correct a player who is disobeying instruction. It is the same as an executive officer who does not echo the commands of the commanding officer, or a wife echoing the instructions of a husband (and vice versa).

If I am a CEO, and I deviate from the vision and mission of the company, so does the entire company.

If I am a parent, and I deviate from my own rules and morales, so do my children, and their children.

If I am a Christian, and I deviate from the Bible's teachings, believers and non-believers will question what I say and do. After all, Jesus Christ, followed God the Father's instructions to a tee, never deviating from Him, and as a result Jesus led thousands (and today hundreds of millions if not billions) of people into a personal relationship with God.

So, whether we are following a boss, obeying a CEO, following rules, following the law, following a vision or mission, or following the restraints of integrity, people will follow the examples we set. Genuinely following the right things will give us the credibility for others to follow. If you want to lead, you have to be a great follower of something that is right and good. You are always leading.

This wasn't the verbatim discussion I had with Jacob, of course. In the end, he understood, and he not only listened to my instructions as a coach, but he applied what he learned. We discovered the technical issues of his throw together, and worked on some drills to correct that. Then, we put it all together into a big picture application. In the same way, I always put our baseball time into perspective of the big picture of life. So, in some ways, baseball is life for Jacob and I, but not the way many fathers think of it.

Also, just as it will take repetition to correct his throw, it will also take repetition of this lesson in everything we do so that he will understand that in order to be a leader of men he also needs to be follower of something greater than himself.

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