This week, a baseball slugger with a 22 year career was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his speech, Jim Thome had this message for young players coming up in the game today:
"If you try to conduct yourself with honesty and authenticity, the result is the most natural high a human being can have."
Jim Thome, July 29, 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Speech
22 words that capture the heart of of Jim Thome's 22 season career. Living this way is what inspired USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale to muse: "Thome, considered perhaps the nicest human being ever inducted into the Hall of Fame." USA Today, July 30, 2018.
His words beg the question, am I conducting myself with honesty and authenticity? In the face of all the challenges that life is laying before me today, how am I doing? Am I being the best version of myself?
These are excellent questions for all of us to ask regularly, particularly for leaders. Why? Because oftentimes leaders are faced with complicated choices, and they don't necessarily have someone to hold them accountable. Often, I get called in too late to work with the leader, and I see the wreckage left in the wake of inauthentic, dishonest leadership. The cost of these leaders is high: on companies, on communities, and, often most painfully, on their own families.
Yet, so often the people around these leaders simply comply with their inauthenticity and dishonesty, because they are afraid or unaware, complicit or simply stuck. They can't find a way out yet. Here is the thing:
Character is contagious.
People of excellent character positively impact the world around them. The school that shines brightly under the inspired leadership of a great Principal. The team that brings creative energy and repeatable success to their assignments because of the synergy that their mutual respect and enjoyment of one other produces. When communities or companies turn around and earn a reputation of excellence, its so often because the character and commitment of a leader has caught on, capturing the energy and engagement of the people around them.
Under pressure a good leader can begin to fray. I have been known to say to the CEO's I coach through their challenging chapters: "Whatever your goals are for this engagement, I want to be clear about mine: I am trying to get you through this season with your character intact." I want the leaders I coach to look back over their careers and be able to speak with the kind of wisdom and clear character Jim Thome possesses.
Jim Thome played 22 seasons of baseball at levels of excellence rarely seen. And at the end of a long and satisfying career, he wanted us to know that it wasn't the World Series appearances, or coming from behind in the bottom of the 9th, slamming the 3-2 pitch out of the park that gave him the highs in his life. No. It was when was in the zone, being the best version of Jim Thome he could be.
Character is contagious. And we need to check ourselves.
So my question for you, for me and for all of us, is this: how are you doing? Are you being the best version of yourself?
What do you need to change to be in better alignment?
Are there amends you need to make?
Relationships to repair or reboot?
A habit you'd be well served to erase?
And where are you shining? What kind of light are you casting as you move through the world?
Leaders that live the way Jim Thome strives to live shine. And so do their teams. People that live like this shine. And so do their families, their friends, and the people around them. So go be the best version of yourself today. It's fun. It's rewarding. And it is what you were made for.
If you've got 20 minutes, here's the speech: