On leadership

In the wake of the Royals’ latest improbable postseason run, I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of Ned Yost.

Not because Yost is so hard to parse—how is someone that obviously wrong turning out to be that right?—but because of Yost’s anecdote about his friendship with Dale Earnhardt:

In 1994, when a labor dispute truncated the baseball season, Earnhardt invited Yost to travel with him on the Nascar circuit and serve as “rehydration engineer” (in other words, water-fetcher). At one race, Earnhardt roared back from a huge deficit and nearly won. When Yost congratulated him, Earnhardt grabbed him by the shirt and pulled his friend nose to nose. ”Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity,” Yost says Earnhardt told him.

What great perspective. So good I’m going to highlight it twice:

Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity.

Why are the Royals successful? Because Yost holds his players to a high standard and expects them to reach it. He doesn’t pander, second-guess or micromanage. He sets a standard and his team follows it.

Ballplayers like to say they “believe in ourselves.” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer stated as much in his post-game interview last night. That comes from the top: Yost, like his mentor Earnhardt, doesn’t let his team settle. It’s an attitude any good manager should adopt.