I used to live in Omaha, Nebraska. One of the benefits of living in the city was being able to experience the College World Series each summer. I was fortunate enough to live two blocks from the stadium, and I was able to fully immerse myself into the Series. The week was and continues to be a very electrifying experience for the athletes and the spectators.
As the 2011 College World Series approached, it got me thinking about all the incredible leadership lessons that we can learn from baseball. Of course, we all know the old adage about how batting .300 is an incredible batting average; yet that means one did not get a hit 7-out-of-10 times. The focus is on the three times you DID get a hit. Such it is with leadership and life! We need to focus on the positives and use the “not-so-positive” experiences as learning experiences to improve and become better.
However, I want to focus on some different metaphors that we can learn from the game of baseball and relate it to Fraternity leadership:
- Success Begins with Recruitment. Bottom line, you are only as good as the men you recruit. If you recruit mediocrity, you’ll most likely end up with mediocrity. If you have one poor recruitment period, your chapter WILL experience the backlash. Now is the time to start focusing on your upcoming recruitment activities.
- Off-Season is Crucial. Great teams are made in the off-season. Leaders train hard. They focus on their goals to improve, and they practice with purpose. Successful fraternity chapters don’t “take the summer off.” The officers and many members put the time in necessary to create a solid executive team and recruitment team. During the summer, they are creating plans for a chapter retreat and recruitment activities. They are investing the necessary time and energy that is required to be successful.
- Warm-up is Necessary. We’ve all heard this, but few of us put it into practice. Unfortunately, many leaders get “thrown into the fire” before they have acquired the adequate skills. As a member of Phi Delta Theta, think of how you can grow your leadership skills. What positions and/or committee memberships can you get yourself involved with that will help you test your leadership skills? Which chapter leaders can you follow and get mentored from next year? The Fraternity is a wonderful opportunity to gain new skills—take advantage of it!
- Players Know Their Strengths. A Fraternity is made up of individuals with various strengths and skills. Put those strengths to work in every way. Recruitment is always the most exciting time for some members because they get to meet new people and look forward to getting others excited about Phi Delta Theta. Others loath the experience as they feel they are not overly comfortable with talking to new people. Match up your better recruiters with members who aren’t as confident. Each will benefit from the experience.
- Keep Your Eye on the Ball. Hitting is as much of a mental function as it is a physical feat. Focus on three key goals that you want to accomplish this semester. Narrow-in on specifically what you want to accomplish and do what is necessary to accomplish the goal. You will not hit a homer every time—you might hit a “can of corn” occasionally. But, by keeping your eye on the ball and focusing, you will achieve success.
- Be IN the Game. As a leader, you cannot “sit the bench.” You MUST get up and be an active player. It’s easy to see the leader of a baseball team—the leader is the first person onto the field and the first back into the dugout between innings. The leader is watching the game intently and knows where all the action is happening. Whether you have an actual leadership position or not, you can be a leader for your chapter. Be an active participant in every way!
Now is the time to start thinking about your upcoming year. Waiting until mid-August is too late to enact your goals. Rather, you might show up and be in complete reaction mode and “caught looking.” Take charge and be ready to be “called up” from the minors to lead your chapter. Don’t stand “on deck” and swing at imaginary balls. Be prepared “to take the heater” and “knock one out of the park.” BATTER UP!!
Matt Brillhart (KS E ’94) is the Director of Community Outreach for William Jewell College’s Pryor Center for Leadership Development. In addition to coordinating leadership programs at William Jewell, he also teaches nonprofit leadership courses and advises a student leadership group. Matt became interested in leadership development through his membership in Phi Delta Theta and the Emerging Leaders Institute. This interest eventually led him to become the first Director of Education at GHQ. He has facilitated at numerous leadership conferences for Phi Delta Theta and other leadership organizations such as LeaderShape. Matt has been married 15 years to his wife Teresa, has two beautiful girls (Hadley and Ivy), and still plays in his all-Phi band after 20 years.