I’ve been learning a lot about leadership this year. In one of my roles at the college at which I work, I’m serving as Chair of our Collegial Governance system. Very basically, there are committees that explore issues of Academic Standards, College Life, Professional Development, and many more. Those committees work on recommendations that must move through our College’s Forum and go to the President for response.
This position has been one of the most rewarding of my professional career even though I’ve found it phenomenally challenging at times. And one thing I’ve begun to learn in this position is that outstanding leadership can sometimes by knowing when to get out of the way and just let an already strong system work its magic. I don’t suggest for a moment that a leader should always do this, or even usually. I do, however, think that a good leader today absolutely needs to do it sometimes and needs to understand when those times are.
Such was absolutely not the case during the term of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first Commissioner of Baseball and the second inductee into the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. Landis had a clear mandate in the wake of the Black Sox scandal when eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. He needed to make absolutely certain for the public, the players, and the owners that the game was clean. As a result, or maybe because it’s the only way he knew, Landis ruled with an iron fist. Let’s look at a couple of quotations.
“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”
Equivocate ever? I guess not. The Black Sox were acquitted by a jury. But Landis was judge, jury, and metaphorical executioner on this one. They’re all still on the permanently ineligible list.
“Negroes are not barred from organized baseball by the commissioner and never have been during the twenty-one years I have served.”
I want to debate neither intellectual honesty nor accuracy here. I merely want to point out that the man took responsibility himself when it was his and absolutely refused to touch it when it wasn’t, at least when it wasn’t in his mind.
A leader such as Landis wouldn’t succeed today, not in Major League Baseball, not in my Governance position, and not in most places in this country. But Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was just about the perfect person to be the first Commissioner of baseball and save the game from the ruin of gambling.
And we think he’s the absolute perfect person to be the second inductee into the Pioneer/Executive wing of the HoME. Next week we’ll add a third.