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A story of knowing
There were three umpires – a novice umpire, a journeyman umpire, and a veteran umpire. They were each being interviewed by the sports press as the professional baseball season began to determine how they “knew” a strike is a strike.
The novice umpire said, “If it’s in the strike zone, I call what I see.”
The journeyman umpire said, “I call it as I see it.”
The veteran umpire said, “It’s nothing ’til I call it.”
For the purposes of this article, let’s have these umpires represent the three ages of leadership. What lessons can we transfer to our organizations, community and ourselves? Consider the novice umpire is a new leader stepping into his position confidently aware of his role, his power and influence, and sufficiently familiar with the basic rules, policies and protocols necessary in his position but not as yet really practiced in their execution. He has book-smarts but is limited in worldly experience, interpreting what he knows of the rules and the reality of their execution. He has no real appreciation of the pressures and stresses of making “the call” in the blink of an eye. He has no real grasp of the major league level of upset he can cause by what he says.
Now the journeyman umpire has a leg or two up on the novice umpire. By now he has served in several leadership positions and likely has had line responsibility for a few projects and maybe even managed the results of others. His successes, mistakes and outright failures have allowed him lessons to learn, but has he? His has a network of colleagues to draw insights from and to use as a sounding board to think through his ideas. OR, he has already begun to believe he knows it all and is starting to be inappropriately impressed by his own title and possible power. He may even be starting to enjoy his role over others just a little too much, not realizing his ego is active when it should be neutral.
Then we come the veteran umpire. He has both knowledge and experience appropriate to his position and you sense it when with him. Having practiced the responsibilities of his role and learned his appropriate lessons, he has made periodic adjustments to his delivery of advice and information, the necessary display of his power and influence, and his appreciation of his impact on the productivity of others. The veteran umpire rigorously models accountability and appreciates all too well what Bernice Gera, the first female umpire said, “ As an umpire, when you make a call, you’re alone.” These umpires know how to honor the game through their interactions with the players and team managers.
What are our takeaways from these three umpires? Leaders develop themselves to the degree their awareness allows. This includes an ever-increasing grasp of the game being played, knowledge of its written and unwritten rules, and being dedicated to an ongoing practice that deepen one’s appreciation of those for whom we are accountable for their productivity. That describes “dedication to mastery.” And that is a game real professionals are interested in playing.
Congratulations to this year’s TRENDS Association Executive of the Year. ASAE CEO John Graham IV, CAE, has clearly gone beyond being a veteran umpire to become a Master Umpire in our community.
John, thank you for using your leadership on our behalf. Now let’s Play Ball!!
Blanken is an experiential workshop presenter and keynoter, strategic facilitator, organizational innovator and creativity expert. Contacted her at firstname.lastname@example.org.