• Adam Tarnow

Be Like Beltre

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

One of my favorite baseball players was Adrian Beltre. The man was a walking highlight reel. He hit home runs from his knee, perfected the bare-handed scoop and throw to first, and often sacrificed his body to make amazing plays at third base. Without a doubt, he will be the next Texas Ranger to enter baseball's Hall of Fame.

Beltre was an excellent baseball player, but he wasn't a well-rounded baseball player. He couldn't pitch. He couldn't hit left-handed. He couldn't play outfield. He wasn't a great catcher, second basemen, or first basemen. He didn't bat leadoff, he didn't steal many bases, and he didn't always treat the umps with respect.

Beltre didn't do everything with excellence. He just did a few things with excellence. He will not enter the hall of fame as a well-rounded player. He will enter as a spikey player – someone who excelled at a few things, not everything.

Don’t worry, when he enters Cooperstown, he'll fit right in. He'll be surrounded by hundreds of other players who were great at a few things, not everything. It seems the key to success in baseball isn't necessarily being well-rounded. In baseball, the key to success is being great at a few things. Spikey players end up being enshrined in the hall of fame, not well-rounded players.

Excellent leaders are similar to excellent baseball players. Excellent leaders are also spikey. There is no such thing as a well-rounded leader. Excellent leaders often do a few things really well, and they work hard to cultivate those few things.

To be clear, like in baseball an excellent leader must have a firm grasp of the basics. If Beltre didn't know the basics of throwing, catching, and hitting, he wouldn't be headed to the hall of fame.

In the same way, an excellent leader needs to have a firm grasp of some basics. For example, you need to be a person of character. You need to be trustworthy. You need to have a desire to serve people (this is not an exhaustive list).

A firm grasp of the basics gives you permission to play. Without them, you'll have no hopes of becoming excellent. Every excellent leader has a firm grasp of these basics. However, once the basics are obtained, excellence is very difficult to codify.

Come to find out, excellence is idiosyncratic. At least that's what Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall say. I went to Clemson, so I had to look that word up. It means "individual." Excellence doesn’t come from being well-rounded, it comes from having a few strengths and using them often.

Your job is not to be great at everything, it's to be great at a few things. Your few things and my few things will often be different. That’s okay. Be spikey, not well-rounded.

So, here is the question you need to ponder this week: do you know where you spike? Is it vision casting? Decision making? Coaching? Creativity? Organization? Communication? Team building? What are your spikes? What one or two things that when you do them, it often works really well and encourages your team?

Knowing and cultivating your spikes will help make you an excellent leader. Incorporating your spikes into your day-to-day leadership is smart. Playing to your strengths is like Beltre always playing third base, batting clean-up, and joking around. When you know your strengths, double down. If you do, you'll bless your team and also probably enjoy the leadership process more.


[1] Photo credit Unsplash: @jblesly

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