Champions at Last: 3 Leadership Lessons from the 2021 Atlanta Braves

By Jonathan PalomboJonathan Palombo

Marketing & Communications Coordinator, TLG

There are many leadership lessons to be learned following the Atlanta Braves magical 2021 season. There was no team in Major League Baseball that was as resilient as the 2021 World Series Champion Braves, who brought home the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in 26 years. Rolling (and at times speeding) through the streets of downtown Atlanta and Cobb County, The Braves celebrated the unlikely triumph of winning it all despite a losing record for most of the season. They did what nobody in Atlanta thought they could, given the recent struggles of Atlanta sports over the past few decades. How did they get there? Through great leadership and a little bit of magic.

Few teams suffered as many key losses as the Braves did, headlined by the devastating loss of Superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. in July. At that point in the season, with the Braves struggling win, many wondered if it was time to start planning for 2022. However, Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and the Brave’s front office had a different perspective. Here are three leadership lessons that were put on display that helped the Atlanta Braves win it all.

 

1.) Retool Instead of Giving Up

One of the main storylines that came out of the Braves season was the retooling of the entire outfield. Not once, but twice. Alex believed in this team and knew that despite their disappointing mid-season record and mounting injuries, this team had the potential to win. He acted swiftly, trading for Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson. We all know how these trades would later turn out, but I must admire Alex’s leadership in this moment – given the greenlight, he went out and got things done. He didn’t throw in the towel and play it conservatively; he went for it all. It paid off.

 

2.) Don’t Make Assumptions

Another lesson in leadership from this Braves squad comes from Manager Brian “Snit” Snitker. Consistently praised as a “classic baseball guy”, Brian has earned his place as one of baseball’s most revered skippers. Brian was far from an overnight success. He has been with the Braves organization for over 40 years, and his journey to where he is now was a turbulent one. Brian has spent most of his coaching career in the Minor Leagues. He tasted the Majors for a short period of time, becoming the Braves Third Base Coach in 2007. However by 2014, he had been demoted back to the Minor Leagues.

Finally, in 2017, Brian would get his shot when he took over the helm as the Atlanta Braves Manager. Four straight Division Titles and a World Series later, you wonder why Brian wasn’t managing elsewhere in the league. But here is the thing – whether you are talking to the Brian who was recently demoted to the Minor Leagues, or the Brian who just led his team to do the seemingly impossible – don’t make an assumption about their talent or their worth! If you show an interest in someone, you’ll give them a chance to show you what they can do.

 

3.) Expect and Embrace Adversity

There was no team in baseball that faced and overcame more adversity than the Atlanta Braves. I think that Charlie Morton’s injury in game one of the World Series was just simply par for the course. But there was something different about this club, it energized them. It was like it was nothing new after what the Braves had already been through. All throughout the regular season and postseason, the Braves embraced every injury and misfortune. The Braves always took action, whether that was investing in four different outfielders, or the bullpen stepping up to become the best in baseball (which halfway through the season they were anything but that). There was even a point in time where the Braves weren’t able to piece together consecutive wins in 18 straight games. I can go on!

The point is this – the Braves kept swinging. The Braves kept playing. They took on every challenge that came their way and did it with a certain swagger. Things won’t always go your way, but if we stick with it, give it our all, and make the necessary adjustments, we too can be a World Series Champions, or at least meet our deadlines.

 

Battle Won

As a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, I know a good baseball town when I see one. Being able to come down to Atlanta and see this team do what they did and being a part of it has certainly made me a Braves fan for life. The Tigers will always be my team, but I’m proud to now also be a part of Brave’s Country. I hope that everyone came away from the 2021 series with not just a World Series Trophy, but as stronger leaders.