Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The price of victory

My one and only Podium finish...

In my life, certain stories have so clearly captured an issue for me that they have become part of my mindset. As someone who has been on every side of competition; when I heard the following story told in the first person, I knew I would not forget it.

I grew up in a small town and our high school competed against other small town schools. I was the star pitcher on our school’s baseball team. Most teams including ours, had few if any substitutes on the bench. One game the other school had ten players in uniform, but one was acting as the bat boy and appeared to have no plans to enter the game. An outfielder on the other team sprained his ankle in the last inning and they substituted this player in for him. The other fielders shifted as if this player wasn’t there. After three outs they came in for their final at bat.

We had a big lead and I was pitching well. With two outs the bat boy came to the plate. I could tell he was nervous and I wanted to get one more strike out to beat my previous best. I threw a fastball and he stepped toward third base as if getting out of the way and the pitch. The pitch was called strike one. Another fastball had the same result. I knew if I threw him a curve he would step out of the way and the pitch would curve over the plate for the third strike. His teammates shouted encouragement him to swing and hang in there.

I threw the curve and he fell to the ground in fear. The ball arced in for the third strike. As I was about to begin my personal celebration I saw the batter sitting in the dirt with his shoulders slumped over, crying. His teammates were approaching him to try and console him. I had set my record; we had won the game. Baseball and winning just never meant as much to me after that.

That story struck me as I had seldom considered the price of victory. I had let my children win when we would race to the car; but aside from that, I had not entertained the concept of sacrifice in competition. We all do things for the greater good. We recycle, we make charitable contributions, we open doors for strangers, but these things really cost us little.

At what point do we yield our egos and/or our personal financial gain for a greater good? When does the responsibility we bear as leaders, or just as equals, mean we put the needs of others before ourselves. I have always felt that when I held leadership positions in companies that I had a duty to make money for the owners, but that I also had a duty to provide opportunities to those who worked for me. I felt this two edged sword was part of the burden of management and I have always willingly accepted it.

Nobody believes more in a capitalistic society where hard work is rewarded more than me. However, I believe that anyone who does not understand and seriously weigh the impact of their actions on others is unfit and undeserving of leadership.

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now.

No comments: