St. Louis Cardinals: Mike Shildt has brought better leadership
By Matt Graves
Mike Shildt has been a breath of fresh air for the St. Louis Cardinals. Adding daily meetings with the entire team is a great example of how Shildt has brought a more actionable style of servant leadership to this team.
Before I get into the changes that interim manager Mike Shildt has made, I want to recognize that Mike Matheny believed in the same type of servant leadership that Shildt is bringing. He, for some time, led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series and playoffs while being a great leader in the clubhouse. But, as things do, something changed or finally snapped and Matheny’s ability to lead in the clubhouse eroded and we all know how that story ended.
Servant leadership is different from traditional leadership because it prescribes that the leader acts as a servant first. The leader first mentality puts his own needs first often lets ego and pride cloud his decisions. The servant leader will inspire those he leads to take charge themselves. Servant leaders make sure that the needs of those they lead are taken care of before his own personal needs are. There is no ego, there is no judgement.
Most leaders fall somewhere between the two extremes.
The Cardinals have been the best team in the league since the managerial change (17-9) and have won 6 straight. Matt Carpenter‘s tear has helped, but Shildt’s servant leadership in the clubhouse has changed the feel of this team on and off the field. It has been a breath of fresh air. Example of change number one from Bernie Miklasz:
Because a servant leader is looking to take care of the needs of all the people under him, an open line of communication is extremely important. These daily meetings are a fantastic way to keep every player’s worries and questions open and more easily discussed. I love it.
How do you think a player feels if he is surrounded with his team, his family and can say anything that is bothering him to the very people who can fix it? There is so much more support in the culture of the team. If a coach doesn’t answer a question, other players can-i.e. Harrison Bader helping Paul DeJong fix his swing:
This may not have happened during a team meeting, but the team meetings were another step.
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down the line from this new open and servant culture that has been brought to this team by Mike Shildt. Players now feel more enabled to lead each other, which in turn helps Shildt manage easier. As someone who is passionate about studying how leadership styles work, this change is fascinating.
Even in the way Shildt speaks you can see why the team is playing better. He is unassuming, quiet, antisocial, and uses vague 80’s references. Shildt always shifts the blame to himself and the praise to his players. He is very cerebral and explains each decision and never makes an excuse. He is the perfect servant leader. Who wouldn’t play their heart out for the guy?
Shildt’s style earns him the respect of his guys. Providing support in the clubhouse allows the players to just go out and play. It’s a refreshing change that may allow the Cardinals to sneak into the playoffs.
I am not going to speak as to where Matheny fell on the scale between servant leader and leader first, but people can slide one way or another over time. Regardless, the time for change came and Shildt has turned this team around. Not only on the field, but in the culture of the team. I love Shildt’s leadership style and hope he gets the job longterm. For more on this, check out Dr. Miles’ article on why the interim tag should be removed. Thanks for reading!