Friday, October 21, 2011

Stardom vs. Leadership

Must stars also be leaders?  Does "star treatment" carry with it some responsibility?

These are what I think are the interesting questions in the aftermath of the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the Rangers, with the winning run resulting from an error by Albert Pujols, and his failure to address the media afterwards, leaving his younger and lower paid teammates to answer for the Cardinals.

On the one hand, I'm not sure why we expect athletic talent (or particular talent in any field) to also correlate with leadership ability.  I never thought it was a moral failing that LeBron James defers to Dwyane Wade.  We don't fault less talented players for failing to be leaders.  Isn't it enough that Pujols puts up huge numbers, and helps put the Cardinals in the World Series, and leave the leadership stuff Tony La Russa, who was hired specifically for that purpose?

On the other hand, groups, particularly groups of men, will tend to follow the lead of the most talented and successful person among them, no matter what the org chart says.  When the most talented person and the person ordained the "leader" are two different people, that is not a stable situation.  It may sort-of work sometimes, as in the Jeter-ARod situation with the Yankees, but it often leads to confusion for the rest of the team.

Then there is the "star treatment," which I am certain Pujols has consumed his share of over the years.  Nobody ever points out that he doesn't run out ground balls.   He probably knew his manager and teammates would cover for him when he bolted last night.  The media needs access to him, so they back off.   And, though he may not be making as much money as he could in the open market, his salary is still several multiples of that of most of his teammates.

I do think that consuming such star treatment does carry with it some responsibility.  First, being accountable for the results, and not leaving that to others.  If you're allowed to do things your way, and your way doesn't work out, then you've got some explaining to do.

So, I don't fault Pujols for not being a leader, but I do fault him for not fulfilling the responsibilities that come with star treatment.
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