Leadership with the Bat
The factor that contributes most to effective leadership is consistency. If you’re going to encourage people to work hard, you need to work hard yourself. If you are going to encourage people to seek after God, you need to seek after Him yourself. If anyone senses something “off” or that you’re being inauthentic, they will be turned off. That’s especially the case for major league players.
Many have heard the phrase, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” (attributed to Francis of Assisi).
The way we live, the way we act and the way we treat others are what people are going to see and hear, and that should point them to Christ. I believe that leadership is about action; it’s less about telling people what to do and more about showing them what to do.
Leadership starts with how you treat your teammates. Baseball is inherently a selfish, individualistic sport. You need to have a great deal of concern for your own performance, but when you’re also able to demonstrate a genuine concern for your teammates and their well being, you gain their trust and respect. Something as simple as bringing guy a glass of water or a towel can go a long way. When you consistently display that concern, it shows that you care about that player, what they’re going through, and who they are. That sort of behavior builds relationships and can give you a license to speak into other areas of your teammates’ lives.
Leadership with the Bible
Now that I’m no longer competing on the field, I spend my days coaching those who are. As the head coach at a Christian high school in Houston, I am able to be around a group of 16- to 18-year-old young men on a daily basis. A big part of my ministry today is to help these guys in their faith journeys as they become men of God. I am here to show them that life is more about God than it is about a baseball career.
Coaching has been a great way for me to transition away from playing. It allows me to work hard at pouring into others so they can compete at their best as well as impact others for the Gospel through the game of baseball. It’s important for men to have a job — to have a goal. Coaching has allowed me to use that drive to pour into others and still enjoy the game.
Although I’m no longer in the locker room with my teammates, the same concept of leadership still holds true as I lead a group of younger men. No matter where we are, our actions and how we carry ourselves are what influence others. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be bold in your faith in today’s world; it’s very counter-cultural. In the past 10 years, Christianity has fallen out of vogue and has had a lot of negative connotations associated with it. But we are called to say:
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” — Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the cross, I am not ashamed to be a Christian, and I am not ashamed to stand up for what I believe in and speak out against those things that don’t line up with my faith. All these things are important for being a leader and being effective for the Kingdom.
— Lance Berkman, former MLB player
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.