Dream Big: Leadership Traits to Emulate
Derek Jeter’s character both on & off the field is one for the ages.
“Leadership is more about what you do, and not what you say.” — Derek Jeter
Have you ever had that feeling after watching somebody for a while that you were witnessing something special? Well, if you ever watched Derek Jeter play during his career with the New York Yankees, you had that chance. Jeter became known and respected around Major League Baseball as more than just your average player; he became known as somebody to emulate both on & off the field by fans and players — both teammates and opponents.
The Yankees recently retired Jeter’s number, and I had the chance to watch the event on TV along with a few interviews. Being a lifelong Yankee fan, I kind of feel honored to have had the opportunity to follow Derek’s career closely and watch how he became one of the “Yankee greats,” both in the record books and in the hearts of the fans.
Interestingly enough, when asked what one piece of advice he would give to people, Derek’s response was to “Dream Big.” He added that he was never the most talented player on the teams he played for, but he made up for lack of talent with a lot of focus and hard work over time as he pursued his “Big Dream” of playing shortstop for the New York Yankees. Hard work & focus over time paid off, and Derek achieved his big dream.
There are many leadership traits Jeter displayed throughout his career, and here is a list of the ones that stood out to me:
1. Personal Goals & Team Goals
During one interview Derek was asked about personal goals. He quickly responded his top personal goal was always the same as the team’s goal; “to win!” It’s obvious a team’s goal is to win, but Derek’s personal goal to win goes far beyond the baseball field; his goal to win is engrained in every part of his life, and it was obvious to everyone who saw him. Think about that for a moment: as a leader, is your top personal goal in line with your team’s/organization’s goal? Whether it is or not will be obvious for your followers.
There is no denying Derek respected every part of the game and everyone around him. This was evident at his number-retirement ceremony, just before he was introduced to the crowd. Derek walked through the dugout and shook everyone’s hands; current players, coaches, and even the batboys. There are still many active players around the league who wear #2 because of the respect they have for Derek. Jeter displayed how respect begins with yourself.
Derek’s humility was and continues to be, second to none. Very few people with his stats would say they were “never the most talented player,” yet Derek still does. He always makes it a point to give the people around him all the credit, even when people want to give it to him. He always shies away from the spotlight.
4. Give Your All
Any highlight film of Derek will show how he gave his all, all the time. It didn’t matter if he was making a play in the field, or running out a ground ball, Jeter always gives full effort. This also included his off the field efforts with his charities and mentoring.
5. Welcome Others
During one of the interviews, several players mentioned how awesome it was when they first joined the team because Derek would welcome them by their first names. Small details such as addressing somebody by their first name is a big deal and goes a long way in making them feel welcome when they first arrive.
Derek made it a point to thank everyone who was a part of his journey. He thanked his parents, his sister, his grandmother, and friends. He was gracious for all his coaches who he said helped him along his entire career. He thanked his teammates and his opponents. And lastly, he thanked the fans for holding him accountable. Derek understands how leadership is a total team effort that needs accountability.
7. Have Fun!
Most of the pictures you will see of Derek will be of him smiling. He responded to one question about his longevity with the simple words “have fun.” He said nobody had more fun than he did on the field, even when he was under immense pressure. Many times we get caught up in our daily grind and forget to enjoy all of our blessings. Ensure you have fun!
8. Keep Dreaming
When Derek was asked how it feels to have achieved his dream and what was next, he simply responded that he will keep dreaming. This is a simple statement packed with lots of wisdom. We should all continue to dream big, stay focused, and work hard for as long as it takes to achieve our next dream. Encourage others to keep dreaming and achieving.
The bottom line as a leader, you are on display at all times. Derek Jeter was under one of the biggest microscopes in the sports world — he was the shortstop for the N.Y. Yankees for 20 years where the N.Y. press & fans can be brutal. However, Derek rose above it all, and put on a clinic for all of us to admire. He dreamed big, stayed focused, worked hard, and achieved his dreams. The leadership traits he continually displayed are ones we should all strive to emulate on & off our jobs. Thank you Derek for being a model of leadership we are all proud of and respect!
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