3 Leadership Lessons From the Manager of the Year

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Managing a Single A baseball team is far from the glory jobs to be enjoyed at the major league level.  The Single A Manager has a very small staff, has to do much of the grunt work and rides the team bus from city to city all summer.  A far cry from having your bags carried for you while staying at the best hotels on the major league circuit.

Ryne Sandberg certainly made enough money during his playing career that he does not need the job except maybe to satisfy his love of the game and his competitive nature.  Yet he accepts the challenge and takes the Peoria Chiefs to the Midwest League Championship game in just his second year at the helm.  Ryno gets promoted to the AA team and leads the Smokies the 2nd half division title and an appearance in the Southern League Championship series.  Ryno is promoted again this time to the AAA Iowa Cubs.  He leads the team to 80 victories with several games yet to be played.  Sandberg also wins the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year Award.  What can today’s leaders learn from Ryne Sandberg’s quest to manage the Chicago Cubs?

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1) Don’t let your pride get in the way of your dreams. Ryne Sandberg made a very credible case that he was ready to manage the National League Cubs and that he was the best candidate.  Yet when he was told to go to the lowest level in the minor league system, he went.  He went because it would lead to bigger things.

2)  Work hard to achieve your dreams. Managing in the A league is not easy and there are few if any perks.  Ryne Sandberg, already a Hall of Famer, went to work to achieve his dream of being the Manager of the Chicago Cubs.

3)  Do your job well, even if you think you are being under utilized. Not only did Ryno go to work, he has been doing his job as a minor league manager exceptionally well.  He is winning at every level.  He is the Manager of the Year.

What is your dream?  What are you willing to do to achieve it?  It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.  Ask Ryne Sandberg.


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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41 Responses to 3 Leadership Lessons From the Manager of the Year

  1. Tim McMahon says:

    Good advice. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Kristen says:

    Such an inspiring story and great tips. I wonder how many people would have walked away when asked to go lead the Single A team?

    • Kristen,

      Thank you! I suspect that most people with his accomplishments would not have been riding the team bus in a Single A league. Some of today’s players even refuse a temporary rehab assignment to the minor leagues after an injury. Thanks again.


  5. Paul Novak says:

    It’s an inspirational story, but it assumes many things. One is that hard work and dedication along with skill move you forward if you have to start low. This is not always the case. In fact, you often find yourself doing stellar work and working harder than ever, yet never moving up.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that you must honestly place a value on yourself, and be willing to draw the line when you feel that your value is being exploited rather than appreciated.

    • Paul,

      Thanks for your insight. Yes, there are some assumptions that in this case have paid off to a certain extent. Ryne Sandberg has moved up quickly from A to AA to AAA. Time will tell if he will achieve his dream of managing the Chicago Cubs. I am very confident that he will be a Major League Manager, even if not with the Cubs. In other cases, people have to make the hard choices if they are not being advanced toward their dreams. I believe that the theme is that we may have to take a different path than we want and it may not be on our time table. These set backs should be used to evaluate our dreams and what we are doing to get there. While there is a time to draw the line, I urge readers to be wise about when and how. Excellent insight. Thanks again.


    • Wow, what a great discussion! Christian, I like your article and your idea here. I think that whatever you do in life you should always strive to achieve perfection and excellence. Sometimes you might have to start smaller and climb up the ladder a few more rungs than you thought, but Paul, I completely agree with you that sometimes you can start at the top and hang on for dear life and make it. Honestly that’s the way I live my life. I try to aim as high as I can and do well. It is a fun challenge!

  6. Dan Rockwell says:


    I love this post. In particular “Don’t let your pride get in the way of your dreams” speaks to me. It might be pride seen in fear of failure or I’m better than …. , pride. Either way it’s a progress killer.

    I suggest that pride makes us engage in self-sabotage.

    Thanks for your insights,

    Leadership Freak,

    Dan Rockwell

  7. Working hard seems to be essential no matter what job you’re doing. As a business owner, I’m well aware of that. One of my requirements for “vacation” nowadays is that I can get a wireless connection. In fact, vacation is actually more relaxing when I can work a couple of hours a day from wherever I am. People think it must be hard to go on vacation and not really have a vacation. But I don’t mind, and even enjoy it. It’s worth it to pursue my dream.

  8. Hi Chris, thought provoking post. Pride and arrogance are always a down fall but many just cannot help it and furthermore they are unaware of their attitude.

    • Hello Kathryn,

      Thank you for your insight. It is amazing to see people who will let pride and arrogance be their downfall. I’m not sure which is worse, when they are aware that pride is in the way or when they aer unaware. Thanks again.


  9. Keyuri Joshi says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring post you have given us. It seems logical for exectutives and corporate types, but I will share it with parents as well as my nearly 15 year old “know it all”.

    • Keyuri,

      Thank you for the encouraging feedback and for sharing my blog with other parents. I find Ryne Sandberg’s quest to become Manager of the Cubs inspiring and hope that others will gain focus and inspiration as well. It would be interesting to hear what your 15 year old thinks of the post. Thanks again.


  10. Your three tips are right on target. Ryne Sandberg had already experienced huge success but his passion for baseball overcame any sense of false pride. Lots of new college grads tend to turn their noses up at the tasks associated with entry-level jobs. They want to move on to the more meaty assignments. My brother gave his children what I consider to be great advice when they were starting out: “If you don’t do the grunt work well, why should you be given more responsibility?” And, by the way, the grunt work never ends, even when you’ve moved up the ladder. We all have chores to do that we don’t like, but it’s important to keep our eyes on the target and the do the best we can at all times.

    • Jeannette,

      Thanks for your comments and insight. You are absolutely right about doing the grunt work well and the expectations of recent graduates. Many people take longer than expected to reach their goals but a hard fought victory is sweeter than having something easily attained.

      Thanks again,

  11. Steve says:

    Chris, what a great lesson on three other personal qualities – humility, patience and perseverance. Our culture teaches us that we have a sense of entitlement, advertising that says to “go for all the gusto” (ok I’m dating myself) and you owe it to me ’cause I’m the best thing that ever! Sadly, it’s not about fame or fortune because when you die, you leave behind EVERYTHING but stories! Work hard, never forget your mentor and trust God first!

    • Steve,

      Your assessment is right on: humility, patience, and perseverance. 3 attributes that are too often lacking and would benefit us all. The instant gratification is lacking in light of eternity. Thanks for your insight.


  12. Recently they changed the entry level of a Physical therapist from a bachelors degree to a doctorate degree. They graduates do not come out of school more prepared to do the treat a patient then previous graduates with a bachelors degree. There are some that believe their degree entitles them to a higher position than a seasoned therapist. Granted they are more equipped to do research but they do not have experience with patient care.

    It is similar to your story. Even though he was a great player he had no experience as a manager. Starting at a lower level may actually make him a better manager than he would have been if he had went directly into the AAA.

  13. Susan Oakes says:

    Great post and important lessons Chris. I think your article shows to accept an opportunity even when it does not seem to be one. It is one thing to want to be a leader it is an entirely different thing to prove you are capable.

  14. Pride is an interesting issue. Millions, if not billions, of people ruin their lives because of pride. Have never understood when someone can’t do x,y,z because of pride.

    For me pride is negative and a result of low self esteeem (not to be confused with self confidence). So it becomes a vicious circle, pride makes their self esteem even lower and unless they come to terms with doing something despite their pride they will miss out on a lot that life has to offer.

  15. Chris, This is a very inspiring story and one in which the person involved is taking a lower paying job for the opportunity. What are your thoughts about a person who takes a low-paying job to put food on the table?

    I bring this up because I’ve been helping my daughter look for a new job and it’s been a little discouraging. Last week, I saw a job where they’re looking for someone with a master’s degree and the pay was $13.84 an hour. I have no doubt that job will get filled. I believe the person who takes that job will have leadership qualities by doing what they need to do.

    • Hi Sherryl,

      I have the upmost respect for someone who will take a lower paying job if that’s what it takes to put food on the table. That’s clearly showing humility or at least putting their pride aside to do what’s best for their family. I would also hope to see it rewarded in the long run. I’d even say that there would be personal growth for that person that would be beneficial in ways that are less tangible but more valuable.

      I know a leader who lost his position of authority. I wasn’t close enough to it to have an opinion about what happened there but I was impressed with how he handled it. He took a job at the local Wal Mart to get his daughter through her senior year of high school. Clearly not what he had planned for his career. He was blessed with a good position in another state shortly after she graduated. Sometimes the blessings are not that obvious. Sometimes the blessings are the way we become stronger, wiser, and more humble by going through hardships.

      Thank you,

  16. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the post – it is refreshing. My biggest pet peeve is arrogance and those who let their pride get in their way. Julia, I didn’t know that about a Physical Therapist – you know how I feel about some in the medical profession! I agree with you that the extra education is not going to teach them better how to deal with patients; as a matter of fact, it might actually add to their arrogance level because they are now more educated.

    Chris, if more people listened to your advice, the world would be a much nicer place. Unfortunately – I see so many walking around who do not follow your advice. It has been said that those people will get what is due them – I am still waiting to see this happen to many I know who deserve it.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for the kind comments about this blog. I am excited and inspired by Ryne Sandberg’s award not just because I have been a huge fan of him, but because it is a reward for someone that is doing it right. Sometimes the benefits from doing things right take some time to see. Sometimes the consequences of doing things wrong take time as well. I have seen people who have had great careers but their life falls apart when they retire because they did not have a balanced life. I’ve seen others who leave a path of destruction as they achieve their goals at work. It catches up with them eventually as well. Sometimes the benefits and consequences are hard to see but eventually they will come. Thanks again for sharing.


  17. Jon Kern says:


    Excellent article. I think this speaks well to the person that takes a long term view of life and does not just live for the moment. Dreams take time and passion. I appreciate your inspiration and know that a posititve view and good habits can go a long way.


    Jon Kern
    Your Dale Carnegie Pupil

  18. I don’t understand sport at all, so I’m sorry if I don’t leave anything edifying today!

  19. Steve Larson says:

    Chris, good advice. I’m working out on the Left Coast, separated from my family and friends. I occasionally start to wallow in self-pity, but I’ll try to remember 1, 2 & 3. Also, No. 4:

    4. I am employed.

  20. Ryno was my idol growing up. I modeled my dedication and application to the game after how he conducted himself on the field. If I am half as successful (as a person) then I will have lead a rewarding life. And I hope to see him on the bench next year leading the my beloved Cubbies to prominence after 100 years of frustration, false-posturing and heartbreaking circumstances.

    • Lloyd,

      Thank you for your comments and glimpse into your passions. You’ll be successful if you continue to model yourself after leaders with character. As for the Cubs, I’m not sure. I do know that being a Cubs fan can teach much about character too. I hope we both see Ryno lead them to the World Series.

      All the best,

  21. Bruce Serven says:

    What a great story!

    Too often such talent is too good for those jobs. Though, sometimes the refusal to do it is because they don’t have the financial security net beneath them that this guy had (it’s quite difficult to go slum in the minors for a while building your proof of ability and making below market wages while trying to support a family if you don’t have the financial cushion to see you thru to the light at the end of the tunnel). It’s easy to do it when you have millions in the bank as a safety net to pursue your dreams (and when you have a support network of friends and family to boost your confidence as you pursue it – too often people experience sniping from friends & family, particularly their spouses, for taking a position which they presume is below the person’s station [and we won’t even go into the court system argument – there was one guy, a former manager for Chrysler here in Detroit, that lost his job and the court system refused to adjust his child support down accordingly even though lower positions were all he could find in the new job climate]).

    The story would be all the more compelling if there were a similar story from say someone who worked at General Motors in a senior role, saw their stock options (including already vested equity) and nest egg become worthless in the 2008 market reset & bankruptcy, then took an entry level position to prove they were capable, all the while supporting a family and untangling themselves from all the debt and lifestyle demands of their previous (now vaporized) wealth and position. I just used them as an example, but any story like that would work.

    As it is though, this is still a great story, and your three lessons are still appropriate and applicable. It shows it is possible.

    Following your dreams is a great adventure, but for most of us that endeavour is an expensive one because of all we have to sacrifice to achieve it (and many people don’t pursue their dreams because they won’t make those sacrifices).

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