A Shining Display of Core Values

Going back as far as I can remember, spring training and baseball have been one in the same for me. The offering of a gentle and somewhat slower pace of transition between seasons puts a smile on my face and has been the purpose for my every-other-year Orlando trips in March.

Yep, there is nothing more pure and warming than spring training baseball where typically little noise is made on the way to opening day and the unofficial start of summer…at least that’s how it was until last week.

On Tuesday, March 15, Adam LaRoche shook the baseball world by suddenly walking away from $13M he was due to earn this year. His abrupt decision has not only impacted his current team and baseball but will surly have an effect across organizations and individuals all over the country.

Mr. LaRoche signed a two-year contract with the Chicago White Sox in the off-season and was expected to provide some power to the line-up as the team’s designated hitter. As part of the agreement, his twelve-year old son Drake would be by his side during spring training and throughout the season as he had been in previous years with other clubs.

Seemed pretty straight forward until executive vice president Ken Williams informed Mr. LaRoche that he needed to limit Drake’s time in the clubhouse before ultimately barring all access. It was at this juncture that Mr. LaRoche walked away from baseball for good.

As told in the USA Today article, “In LaRoche-White Sox flap, Kenny Williams acted on behalf of others, too”, Mr. LaRoche stated, “The current situation arose after White Sox VP Ken Williams recently advised me to significantly scale back the time that my son spent in the clubhouse,’’ LaRoche said in a statement. “Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all. Obviously, I expressed my displeasure toward this decision to alter the agreement we had reached before I signed with the White Sox.”

“I understand that many people will not understand my decision,’’ LaRoche said in his statement. “I respect that, and all I ask is for that same level of respect in return. I live by certain values that are rooted in my faith, and I am grateful to my parents for that. I have tried to set a good example on and off the field and live a life that represents these values.”

Regardless of the position you hold in a corporation or life, your core values represent who you are and what you are all about. Your core values must be aligned with the organization you work for and if you are a leader in the organization, your core values have to be aligned with your vision in order to inspire others. The fundamental ingredient for an inspirational leader is trust. Your values constitute your bottom line and cannot be changed. If they can, you cannot be trusted and are not a leader.

Understandably there is likely much more than we will ever fully know about what all took place between Mr. LaRoche and the White Sox. There are reports of several players privately complaining to Mr. Williams about Mr. LaRoche’s son to Mr. Williams acting alone on his own accord in shutting down clubhouse access. Regardless, it did not align with Mr. LaRoche’s core values and as a result, has now created trust issues within the team for many of the players as it relates to leadership.

While core values is the focus in this piece, there are a lot of leadership lessons to take away here. First, when you commit to something, you best follow-through. If you can’t follow-through, you best communicate openly and honestly. Finally, understand any decision that impacts one person will likely have an impact on others regardless of the benefits or pain to the organization. Be prepared.

As the Impact Leadership model states, character through communication is an essential element to becoming a successful leader. It’s the one area that is either revealed or exposed – either result will have a lasting impact.

Parenting and organizational leadership are similar in nature as both positions are responsible for those entrusted to them. Mr. LaRoche’s decision leaves no question on the commitment to his value system. You can be assured that his son Drake, the rest of the LaRoche family and those touched by this move will be benefactors of those values for years to come.

Sticking to your core values as an organizational leader will have the same impact.

“In life, we’re all faced with difficult decisions and will have a choice to make. Do we act based on the consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? I choose the latter.’’  – A. LaRoche as quoted in USA Today.