Leadership Lessons from Moneyball: A Study in Courage

I recently finished watching (rewatching, to be honest) the movie Moneyball.

Not only is it great to watch, but it also tells a powerful story about what it means to be a leader.

In case you haven’t seen the film, it’s based on a true story about a baseball team called the Oakland A’s. The A’s are one of the league’s poorest teams, spending only a fraction of what other teams do on players. As a result, they constantly lose their best players to richer teams.

Their general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) has to find a different way of running the club because they just can’t compete if they do the same as the other teams.

The approach he comes up with is one which flies in the face of traditional baseball thinking, where he looks for valuable players that other clubs ignore, and also one his own scouting staff would ignore. A team of misfits!

This is a very dangerous road for him to take as he has to go against over 100 years of baseball thinking, this invites a lot of criticism, both externally, and also from within his own club.

Part of the reason is that he undermines some of the perceived value that other people bring, which then threatens their livelihoods.

He replaces player recruitment based on scouting intuition & baseball experience, with hard facts, building his team based on statistical algorithms rather than what he scouts feel and believe.

He not only shows great courage to take this path but during the film, his credibility and authority are challenged by his chief scout, his team manager and much of the baseball press. Even his own team manager refuses to play some of the players he has brought in.

How does he respond to this, does he give in?

No, he doesn’t.

He trades players who others believe are star players, for the players that he believes will win for him.

He shows the courage of his convictions, he continues down the path that he has chosen, and he wants to see it through, even though initially the results don’t go his way.

Ultimately his team achieves success, they set a new record for consecutive wins in the league at 20. A feat that no one believed was possible, one that proved the approach had worked.

However, Billy Beane’s real success is not that record-winning streak, no his real success is that he changed the way that other teams look at things, as many clubs start to follow the approach he used.

At times the easy option would have been to follow the crowd, nobody would be surprised if he failed by following the methods of others, his team is the poorest, so they don’t really have a chance. Everyone could understand and sympathise with that!

He chose not to take the failure which could be understood, he chose to go for success by an approach that wasn’t understood!

That’s Leadership Courage, to follow your heart and to do what you believe in.

Leadership is not about following the crowd, it’s about finding your own path and sometimes this flies in the face of conventional thinking.

It’s not easy to tell everyone that they’re wrong and you’re right, that really does require courage.

Follow your heart, follow your head, and have the courage to set your own path!

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