Weekly Thoughts From the Desk of the Principal

We should never avoid addressing the challenges that are in our control. Click below to read this week's thoughts. 

Gabriel Lucas

Aug 12, 2021

Weekly Thoughts From the Desk of the Principal

On this date in 1994, Major League Baseball was sent into a tailspin by a strike that stopped all games and effectively ended the season.  Many people remember the impact that the strike had on unique storylines — including that of the Montreal Expos, who were in first place despite having the second-lowest payroll of the season.  But what is often forgotten is that MLB had no permanent commissioner at that time.  Instead, one of the owners, Bud Selig, had been simultaneously serving as acting commissioner.  Shockingly, Selig’s acting commissioner title spanned from 1992 - 1998, until well after the strike had ended.


Without going into all the details of one of the most unfortunate periods in baseball history, I think it’s safe to say that the 1994 strike is a textbook lesson in organizational instability and the negative impact of leadership voids.  This is not a commentary on whether Selig himself was a good or bad leader, but rather that MLB as an organization suffered from not having a fully empowered and unbiased commissioner at the helm.


Take a look at your organization.  What roles do you pretend to have?  Whenever I talk with clients and hear something to the effect of, “We kind of have a finance ‘person,’” or “We have someone who’s sort-of doing technology for us,” or “We have a chief executive, but…” my internal red flags go up.  There is nothing wrong with creating a hybrid role here and there, but like any winning baseball team you should at least know who’s pitching, catching, and managing.


We have started to encourage our clients to think about governance when and especially before they hire.  This doesn’t mean you need to solve every problem through an organizational audit, but clarity and transparency are essential to the marketplace.  In the MLB example, I wonder whether the simple act of appointing a full commissioner — even Selig himself — long before the strike would have led to a different outcome.  In other words, improvements don’t always need to be dramatic, but interim change should always be deliberate, carefully executed, and accompanied by an exit strategy.


Let’s hope the pandemic doesn’t shut down the baseball season, just as hopefully the pandemic won’t impede the hiring season.  But while those forces are in many ways out of our hands, we should never avoid addressing the challenges that are in our control — especially when they have a direct impact on how an organization functions.




Subscribe to the newsletter

Our weekly newsletter, Insights, shares articles, tips, and job announcements for nonprofit and educational leaders!