Leadership Lessons From Derek Jeter

JeterHe’s gone, gone, nuthin’s gonna bring him back, Grateful Dead

No, not Jerry. He’s been gone since 1995. Derek is gone, but just as a Yankees player. The 2015 season is upon us and alas #2 will not be on the field.

Last season’s yearlong “goodbye tour” was heartfelt, but it was even a little over the top for me. He announced his retirement in advance of his final year to diffuse the season long conjecture and admittedly to take pressure off himself if his season was sub-par–which it was. But his goodbye tour had a real ending too, not a Who, Fleetwood Mac, or Cher faux goodbye tour. There will be no comeback ahead as a player for Jeter. No Ali, MJ “I’m back”.

What made Jeter a larger than life icon and what leadership lessons can we all embrace?

Jeter was a great player on every statistical dimension. 6th most hits, .310 batting average, 5 rings, countless big moments. He was an all-time baseball great, though certainly Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle were even greater Yankees.

However, Jeter’s star was brighter than his baseball ability. Simply, his greatness transcended his stats. Derek Jeter was, is and will continue to be a leader in life.

What were his leadership qualities that transcended the game? Here is what I believe are his 5 best leadership qualities

1. Team first

He spoke only of team. However trite the expression, there was no “i” in Jeter. The only goals were team goals. Regular season wins, playoff wins and ultimately the World Series championship to which he contributed to 5 times.

2. No excuses.

“When I was younger, I was always taught not to make excuses.”. No gripes, finger pointing at others. No discussion of injuries even when it was obvious (For example– 2012 when he lead the majors in hits at age 38 and limped throughout the season until his ankle exploded in the playoffs)

3. Humility

“Your image isn’t your character. Character is what you are as a person.” His parents did a wonderful job in raising him. No posing, look at me, self congratulations.

Jeter sign
4. Passion

It was clear from day one that he was passionate about his work as a player and proud to be a Yankee. He was the right player for the right team at the right time.

5. Consistency

Jeter played hard–day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. He did not get a hit in every game, just most of them. But he brought it in every at bat and every play in the field. As a fan you felt he gave his best.

The 2015 Yankees are clearly a team in transition. The A-Rod (“the anti-Jeter”) circus is back in town, but hopefully not for long. The Yankees have lost their star and so has the game. However, the greatness of baseball continues, as will the greatness of Derek Jeter as his next chapter in life unfolds.

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