St. Francis Xavier University
Leadership and Billy Beane
Michael Lewis’s Moneyball is a fascinating story about a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. The underlying question to this story is where the real discussion should begin. That question is: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games? This question can lead into a series of discussions regarding strategy or luck, but the real answers can be found in the leadership of the organization. This leadership is found in the form of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s. The analysis of Billy Beane will look to explore his underlying values, traits, and visions that may have shaped his leadership style. After gaining an understanding of the leader himself, this analysis will study the situation and the influence tactics used by Billy Beane. Finally, the information gathered will be applied in a business context and compared to alternative styles of leadership. Billy Beane provides an interesting test subject in any discussion of leadership. Through an intensive comparison of Billy Beane, leader centered perspectives, and several other applicable leadership theories, this review hopes to unravel the leadership story being told accompanied by a critical evaluation if the displayed leadership.
Leader-centered Perspective: Traits
Jackson and Parry (2011) leads their book off with three questions that are most asked about leaders. The first question is whether leaders are born or made. This is an appropriate start to an evaluation of Billy Beane’s leadership. A direct quote from colleagues described him as a “natural leader”. The literature Jackson and Perry present describes the ‘born’ side of leadership development as 30% of leadership effectiveness. Many examples can be found from the book that illustrates Billy Beane as a leader with traits that were perhaps naturally acquired at birth. In comparing the literature with descriptions of Beane, an argument can be made that he exhibits the traits of a “natural leader”. Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) developed a list of six traits that can be used to distinguish leaders from non-leaders. The first trait is drive, which is clearly evident in this story. Beane showed a high motivation level, combined with energy, tenacity, and initiative. The initiative he took in implementing the new scouting process was perhaps the clearest display of his drive. The second trait, achievement, is seen in Beane’s desire to win baseball games. He is quoted as saying “I hate losing”, and this will be discussed later in this review. The third trait, honesty and integrity, is evident in his willingness to tell players face-to-face that they have been traded. This is not a common practice amongst all general managers in the game. The fourth trait, self confidence, is clearly on display in his dealings with his scouts and coaches. He has the confidence to confront a room full of scouts, and tell them they have been doing their jobs wrong. The fifth trait, cognitive ability, may be Beane’s most evident trait. His intelligence and innovative mindset allowed him to reshape the business behind the sport. The final trait is the trait that allowed Billy Beane to become the most respected general manager in the game. Knowledge of the business allowed Beane to exploit inefficiencies in the market place. There is a clear recognition of the industry, competitors, and strategies for success. Recognizing that approaching the market with the same strategy as a team with three times the payroll capabilities (New York Yankees) would be an ineffective strategy, he formed an alternative strategy that allowed him to reach similar outcomes as such wealthy teams. Other traits that were mentioned...
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