Leadership Lessons from Major League Baseball

I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but from all accounts of the Shawn Chacon v. Ed Wade brawl, Shawn was a little more than insubordinate.


Don’t know what I’m writing about? Former Houston Astros’ starting pitcher, turned reliever, Shawn Chacon was none to happy about his recent demotion to the bullpen. When reportedly called to the carpet in the team’s dining room by Astros’ GM Ed Wade, Chacon allegedly grabbed Wade by the neck and threw him to the carpet.


(Read all about it in the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-bbnotes26-2008jun26,0,7068582.story; or in the USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/astros/2008-06-25-chacon-suspended_N.htm.)


Anyone and everyone in the sports world has expressed their opinion about Chacon. My favorite sports guys, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (hosts of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning), took the safest route by admonishing Chacon and supporting the Astros’ in their decision to suspend and eventually release Chacon. It is doubtful the 30-year-old right-hander will pitch again in the Majors, not necessarily because of the fight, he’s just not very good this season.


But enough about baseball, this blog is about Leadership Development.


While I agree Chacon should have been released, I don’t think the Astros went far enough with him (I actually think he should have been arrested). Nor do I think they went far enough with GM Ed Wade (I think he should have been fired).


Fired? You want the guy fired for getting the crap kicked out of him at dinner? Actually, yes, and here’s why…


Leaders do not admonish their subordinates in front of others (as Wade reportedly did in this instance). If you think hotheads exist in sports, try working in the logging, construction, or trucking industries. If a General Manager in any of those businesses treated their teammates the way Wade is alleged to have treated Chacon, they could expect similar treatment. Moreover, they could expect to have a poor record of growth, high turnover and low employee morale. Eventually, this poor performance would cost them their job.


Just because it’s Major League Baseball, it doesn’t change the dynamics of leadership. True leaders serve their team, not the other way around. When insubordinate subordinates surface, true leaders take steps to keep the situation under control. Specifically, they understand people and how to (happily) get the most out of them. When they’re faced with a hot-headed employee, true leaders work to ensure their safety, the employee’s safety and the safety of those around them.


While no one deserves to be physically attacked for verbally berating another, true leaders understand that the old “sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you” saying doesn’t really apply much after the second grade, and certainly not in Major League Baseball.


Chacon, deservedly so, is now a footnote and a punch line. Wade, unfortunately, is still employed by a team sitting 10 ½ games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs. Perhaps Chacon would still be helping the Astros to another mediocre finish if his General Manager wasn’t trying so hard to prove who’s in charge. It sounds to me like the Astros are suffering from the kind of leadership that leads to poor growth and low employee morale – could it be their GM?