When Ian Kinsler, all-star second baseman for the Texas Rangers, was traded to the Detroit Tigers this past off-season, he let it be known right away that he was ready to be a leader with his new team.
However, Kinsler told reporters that he wanted to be very clear about what he could do for his new team: a leader on the team, but not necessarily a leader in the locker room.
You see, in Texas Kinsler had been asked by manager Ron Washington to help mentor younger players, show them how to prepare for games and how to compete over baseball’s grueling 162-game schedule. This was especially important to the Rangers because the team’s long-term leader, third baseman Mike Young, had just retired.
Kinsler told ESPN: The Magazine that he relished the opportunity to lead, but did not think he was the best guy to mentor and teach.
“I wanted to be a leader,” he told the magazine. “I love being a leader on the field and in the dugout….But after Mike (Young) left, a lot of young players were coming up (and) other stuff became part of leadership.
“You had to teach players to prepare the right way, which in turn, is going to help you win. But I’m not good at that. I’m not good at following a guy around and telling him when to get to the field or how to prepare for a game. I feel like they should figure that out on their own.”
How many of us in leadership roles can relate to Kinsler’s situation? Being a leader comes with significant demands. Many times leaders feel pressured or tempted to try to do it all – often with mixed results.
The simple reality is that even for some of the best leaders, it’s hard to do everything and do it well over the long term.
Kinsler shows us the importance of knowing our leadership sweet spot. This means knowing what you do well, what you need to work on, and perhaps what you might need to pass off to others.
It can also mean admitting that you might not have what it takes to lead.
In Kinsler’s case, Detroit is a veteran-laden team. As a result, he was not required to be a mentor to younger players. And Kinsler has responded in a big way with a career year. He now ranks among the top hitters in the American League.
Kinsler is leading, as he promised, more by example. He’s succeeding because he knew his leadership sweet spot and wasn’t afraid to communicate it to his organization.
What about you? This week’s Gut Check question asks: Do you know your leadership sweet spot?
Let me know @VinceMolinaro