In the movie Moneyball, the main story is focused on Billy Beane, a General Manager (GM) of the team Oakland Athletics and his attempt to rebuild the team after a number of unsuccessful games in order to prepare it for the 2002 season (Miller, 2011). During the course of the movie, Beane employs a number of managing approaches and introduces a new method of choosing new players for the company’s management.
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Moreover, he shows ways of transformational leadership in his attempt to creating a successful team. A limited budget and a negative response from the administration do not stop Beane from using this new approach, and he achieves significant success in the end. Moreover, his work also shows signs of Kotter’s eight critical steps to leading change. Moneyball is a movie that shows successful and unsuccessful uses of transformational leadership and introduces a character whose choice to employ a new approach leads to significant change.
Leadership Styles and Motivation
Throughout the course of the movie, Beane learns to use the approach of transformational leadership to assemble and lead the new team. According to Cronin, Arthur, Hardy, and Callow (2015), a transformational leader is a person that focuses on the followers’ motivations and engages them in the working process. This result may be reached with the creation of a clear vision, understanding of the follower’s needs, and communication.
In the first part of the movie, Beane states that he does not want to engage with the team’s members in order to avoid developing an attachment to the team. However, his trust in the new process of relying on game data to choose players changes his attitude. Beane focuses on creating a team and not highlighting individual players. Thus, his approach to leadership changes from being disengaged to talking directly to the Oakland Athletics’ members.
However, direct communication is not the sole sign of Beane using transformational leadership. The GM creates a motivation for the team to move forward and shows them that winning is a goal towards which they should strive. As one of his first actions to support the new approach, he entrusts the enlisting decisions to a recent Yale graduate, Peter Brand, who uses an innovative way of choosing players (Triady & Utami, 2015). After fully incorporating the Brand’s plan and allowing him to speak to players, Beane becomes more involved with the team’s strategic meetings (Miller, 2011).
While his previous philosophy included not talking to players, after implementing the new strategy, the GM tries to find an individualized approach to each player. For instance, he speaks to David Justice, an older player whose age often becomes the center of debate among reporters. By reasoning with him and appealing to his passion for baseball, Beane demonstrates the use of transformational leadership. The GM speaks to the majority of players in a similar matter, focusing on their needs, fears, and insecurities.
The changed attitude of Beane towards the new team leads to the rising number of wins. Beane continues to employ this approach and stays informed about players’ personal strengths. By giving athletes motivation and opening up about their hatred for losing, Beane inspires the team and creates meaningful relationships that further contribute to the team’s efficiency. Here, the use of transformational leadership can be seen in a number of behaviors. First of all, Beane uses a personal approach to each member of the team. The concept of individual consideration is the basic aspect of the transformational approach (Cronin et al., 2015).
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Second, Beane highlights the importance of teamwork which also separates this type of leadership. Furthermore, Beane outlines his high expectations of the team’s performance, stating that the best result is the only expectable one. By establishing challenging but reachable goals, Beane strengthens the morale of players and informs them about their possibilities (Cronin et al., 2015).
Beane bases his interactions with players on a number of motivational factors. He uses current failures as a base for inspiring athletes to become better, creating measurable and achievable goals. Beane also appeals to the men’s love of baseball and their passion for playing while they still can. For some players, age and trauma did not allow them to join other teams. The GM uses this information to make players feel reinvigorated while playing for his team. Finally, he uses the following victories as leverage to convince other managers of his plan’s effectiveness.
There are many benefits to using transformational leadership, and Beane utilizes a number of appropriate practices during the course of the movie. First of all, he focuses on the positive traits of the new players and reinvigorates their love for the game. Beane’s individualistic approach leads to members’ developing a sense of self-confidence and assuredness in their professional skills. Such an approach is essential in sports management as professional athletes often depend on their level of security in personal abilities to display good results (O’Boyle, Murray, & Cummins, 2015).
Therefore, Beane’s behavior allows players to focus on their strengths and overcome their issues. Apart from addressing players’ personal traits, Beane also emphasizes the importance of teamwork. Here, the focus on communication and trust between players becomes the main driver for the team as it creates a system of support and generates positive motivations to achieve goals. By creating a strong culture for the team, Beane increases morale which, in turn, benefits members’ performance (Peachey, Zhou, Damon, & Burton, 2015).
Beane’s openness and integrity also positively affect the outcomes of the team’s training. The GM is completely honest with players about the lack of money, which does not create unrealistic expectations for them. During the hiring process, all future members of the team are fully aware of their possible limitations, financial situation, and coach’s expectations. Therefore, there are no misunderstandings in the organization regarding its budget. Such an approach keeps members of the team grounded while giving them enough energy and reward to move forward. The concept of transparency and ingenuity is also an essential part of transformational leadership, and Beane’s direct approach is suitable here (Morse & Babcock, 2016; Peachey et al., 2015).
While Beane’s leadership approach has some beneficial aspects, the GM’s behavior may lead to adverse effects in some situations. For instance, Beane’s expectations are extremely high, as the man does not see anything but the victory in the season as a mark of success. While the new team that was created using the innovative approach has a streak of 20 consecutive victories – a record that has not been repeated for many years, the loss of the final game renders all achievements irrelevant in the GM’s eyes (Miller, 2011).
Moreover, his overpowering ambition for wins leads to the fall out in relations between him and some members of the managing team. Beane’s harsh judgment of the managers’ approaches and the failure to establish communication early is where his leadership does not fully resemble a transformational model (Issah & Zimmerman, 2016). Arguably, some of Beane’s objectives may be unrealistic for a team with such a short period of working together.
Moreover, he fails to award players for the victories that they have achieved. While transformational leadership values continuous growth, Beane’s focus on one goal does not allow him to see that many smaller objectives have been reached. He fails to see a prospect for the future for the team, which is also reflected in the epilogue of the movie, where Beane continues to value only one goal – winning the last game of the season. The GM’s narrow focus is inappropriate for transformational leadership, which recognizes small achievements as steps to more significant successes (Issah & Zimmerman, 2016). Beane’s approach to talking to athletes also remains rather strict, which may put additional mental pressure on them, lowering their self-confidence and efficiency as players.
Eight Critical Steps to Leading Change
Beane’s process of implementing the new data-reliant method of choosing players has some resemblances to Kotter’s methodology. First of all, Beane establishes a sense of urgency by stating concrete dates when the team should be ready to play and when it should deliver results (Pollack & Pollack, 2015). The GM asserts that the team that failed to win in 2001 should produce different results in 2002.
Moreover, Beane identifies the underlying problems that he and the team will encounter on their path to reaching the goal – the lack of funds. Second, the man forms a “guiding coalition,” which includes his assistant, who has the necessary skills to implement the new system (Pollack & Pollack, 2015, p. 53). Next, he creates a vision – winning games in the following season – and establishes strategies to achieve that vision. The plans include choosing new players, bringing them into the team, training, and teamwork with the focus on individual strengths.
After developing a vision, Beane communicates it to the followers – team members and other managers. He and his assistant, Brand, become the example of implementing the new set of behaviors in creating the team (Pollack & Pollack, 2015). Moreover, Beane removes obstacles to implementing the system by firing people who disagree with the new vision and negotiating conditions with those who decided to stay.
Furthermore, the process of planning for short-term victories is also present in Beane’s strategy, although he fails to acknowledge that. However, he is focused on performance improvement from one game to another, which coincides with one of the steps of Kotter’s model (Pollack & Pollack, 2015). Finally, Beane continues to produce change and institutionalizes the approach as the methodology becomes recognized by other teams in the end (Pollack & Pollack, 2015).
In Moneyball, Billy Beane’s way of managing the Oakland Athletes’ team has many traits of transformational leadership. His personal approach to players and their individual strengths and weaknesses, the focus on teamwork, and the establishment of clear, measurable short-term goals allow the team to become better. While he fails to reward players for small victories and sometimes treats them harshly, his ability to appeal to each team member leads to positive results. Beane’s introduction of the new player choosing system to the team follows Kotter’s eight steps methodology. The GM creates a sense of urgency, finds problems in the current process, forms a reliable team, and removes obstacles to change, improving on the new system and making it institutionalized.
Cronin, L. D., Arthur, C. A., Hardy, J., & Callow, N. (2015). Transformational leadership and task cohesion in sport: The mediating role of inside sacrifice. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 37(1), 23-36.
Issah, M., & Zimmerman, J. A. (2016). A change model for 21st century leaders: The essentials. International Journal of Pedagogical Innovations, 4(1), 23-29.
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Miller, B. (Director). (2011). Moneyball. Web.
Morse, L. C., & Babcock, D. L. (2016). Managing engineering and technology (6th ed.). Essex, UK: Pearson.
O’Boyle, I., Murray, D., & Cummins, P. (Eds.). (2015). Leadership in sport. New York, NY: Routledge.
Peachey, J. W., Zhou, Y., Damon, Z. J., & Burton, L. J. (2015). Forty years of leadership research in sport management: A review, synthesis, and conceptual framework. Journal of Sport Management, 29(5), 570-587.
Pollack, J., & Pollack, R. (2015). Using Kotter’s eight stage process to manage an organisational change program: Presentation and practice. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 28(1), 51-66.
Triady, M. S., & Utami, A. F. (2015). Analysis of decision making process in Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game. The Winners, 16(1), 57-63.