Leadership Lessons from Field of Dreams

Everything I Needed to Know about Leadership I Learned from “Field of Dreams”: Leadership Lessons from Field of Dreams

By Jeffrey H. Schwartz

Already, I have not told the truth.  For one thing I learned about leadership from many sources other than the movie “Field of Dreams.” For another, I did not learn everything I needed to know the first time I saw the movie, nor the second. It took many times –at least for me – to get the full impact of what I was seeing. The title of this essay is untrue in many other ways, too.  Yet at its core, it is profoundly true. (Even if it’s not, I enjoy sharing it with you and hope you’ll enjoy and be edified by reading it.)

Baseball, humor, and stories were staples of my family of origin. Here’s one of my dad’s favorite jokes – one that he told me early and often:  A guy goes into a bar with his dog and sits down with the dog at the bar. The bartender comes over and asks the guy what he wants. The guy says, “My dog, Rover, here can talk. If I prove it to you, will you give me a drink free?” The bartender says, “I don’t believe it, but if you’re dog really can talk, sure I’ll give you a free drink.” “Ok,” says the guy, then turns to the dog and says, “Rover, what does sandpaper feel like?” The dog goes, “Ruff, Ruff.” The bartender says, “That’s BS, your dog can’t talk.” The guy says, “Oh, yes he can. Listen to this. Rover, what’s on top of the house?” The dog goes, “Roof, roof.” The bartender, now highly exasperated, says, “Look, buddy, I’ll give you and your dog one more chance, and then I’m kicking you both out of if your dog can’t really talk.” The guy turns to his dog and says, “Last chance, Rover. Tell the man who was the greatest baseball player of all time?” “Ruth, Ruth,” says the dog. The bartender picks the man and his dog up by the scruffs of their necks and throws them bodily out the door onto the sidewalk. As they begin to pick themselves up, Rover turns to his master and says, “Maybe I should have said Cobb.” (Later versions of the story changed this to “Maybe I should have said DiMaggio.”)

That story tells a lot about my dad and about me. He loved puns, baseball, making people laugh, and stories, and I loved him and his telling this and many other stories over and over again. What’s all this got to do with “Field of Dreams?” The movie is a great story about baseball and about fathers and sons (and daughters, too). It also is a fable about the elements of great leadership.  But I only put that last part together much later.

So what can we learn about leadership from this remarkable movie? For a good synopsis of the movie, see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097351/synopsis

 Leadership Lessons from Field of Dreams

1)      It starts with a vision.  The successful leader must be able to articulate a powerful vision, one that inspires him/herself and others by its clarity, boldness, and depiction of a world they deeply wish were so, but that does not exist.  In the movie, Ray hears a voice in his cornfield in Iowa that no one else can hear. The voice repeatedly says, “If you build it, he will come.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ay5GqJwHF8&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155&index=1. At first, that apparently outer voice (but perhaps really an inner voice) does not make sense even to Ray — until he sees a vision of a floodlit lush baseball field in the middle of his cornfield. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGfkXn37W98 — 11:41. This vision is astonishingly strange to Ray, but awesomely beautiful, and he feels passionately that it must be pursued without fully understanding why.  

  • Robert F. Kennedy’s paraphrase of George Bernad Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
  • Gallo: “You cannot inspire a team of passionate evangelists without a compelling vision; a vision that is bold, simple, and consistently communicated.”[i]
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a dream.”

2) We cannot do it alone.  Great leaders require faithful followers. At first Ray alone holds the vision, but eventually wife, Annie, allows him to plow under the corn to build the field despite her skepticism. (When Ray says to her, “I think I know what ‘If you build it, he will come’ means,” Annie says, “Oooo, why do I not think this is such a good thing?”)  He then explains that he think it means that “if I build a baseball field out there [in the cornfield], Shoeless Joe Jackson will get to come back [from the dead] and play ball again.” Later, Annie replies, “I thought my family was crazy, but this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”  Ray himself acknowledges, “I know. This is totally nuts.”

Later, despite his nagging doubts, Ray tells Annie, “I want to build that field. Do you think I’m crazy?” Annie says, “Yes. But I also think if you really think you should do this, you should do it.” With Annie’s blessing, Ray can move forward.

Their daughter Karen becomes an ally when she rides with him on the tractor as he plows up his cornfield and listens to his stories about Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Annie even helps him build the bleachers. When the diamond is built and the lights are installed, Ray says to his wife, “I have just created something totally illogical,” and she replies, “That’s what I like about it.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQv0WWhoZnI&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

Karen is the first member of the family to see the “man out there on your lawn.” (This is often so:  children can see what is evident long before adults can in many cases.) It is a phantom and a miracle: disgraced ballplayer Shoeless Joe – returned from his exile, aging, and death, restored to his prime to play again on this field of dreams. Annie can see him, too.  Ray takes heart from Annie’s faith in his dream and from Annie and Karin’s ability to see what seems to be invisible to everyone else.

Their support sustains Ray’s dream, even as the financial implications of plowing under large parts of the corn crop become painfully evident to him and Annie. When Shoeless Joe plays ball on the field, his love of the game becomes as palpable as the corn. Joe asks Ray if he can bring the other players from the 1919 White Sox who were banned from the game for allegedly throwing the World Series, and Ray tells them they are welcome. Then he turns to Annie and says, “We’re keeping this field.” Annie replies, “You bet your ass we are!”

Successful leadership depends on enrolling the support of at least a small group of followers who can see “why” the change is so urgently needed. See the youtube video on the importance of the “first follower” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ. See also:

  • Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
  • Stephen R. Balzac: “At the most basic level, leadership is having a destination and the ability to convince others to follow. A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.”[ii]
  • Fidel Castro: “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I’d do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” [iii]
  • Simon Sinek: “How great leaders inspire action” – “start with the “why”.[iv]

3)  Plan the work, work the plan. A great vision is not enough. The visionary leader needs also to enlist the support of others, make a plan, develop the strategies to achieve the vision, and work diligently to implement the plan until the data show that adjustment of the plan is necessary.

  • T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia): “Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all that was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.”[v]
  • Pablo Picasso: “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”[vi]
  • Indira Gandi: “Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” [vii] 

4) Courage, faith, and willingness to act in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. When Ray plows under a substantial part of his corn crop to build the baseball field, he does not know for certain where this will lead or how it will end.  Neighbors gather to watch as he plows up his cornfield and ask each other, “What the hell is he doing?” . It takes courage and faith to do this in face of neighbors’ ridicule. Some call him a “damned fool” and “the biggest horse’s ass in three counties.” What’s worse is Ray’s own inability to explain why this act makes sense. At one point he asks Annie, “Am I completely nuts?” She nestles close to him and says, “Not completely. It’s a good baseball field, Ray.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQv0WWhoZnI

Later, Ray’s brother-in-law, Mark warns him, “You’re going to lose your farm, pal. The stupid baseball field is going to bankrupt you. Everybody knows it. All I’m saying is that if you wait until you default on your loan, you’re going to lose everything.” This is the voice of reason speaking. Leadership involves pushing for change, and there is always resistance. But the great leader knows that she or he must do what needs to be done to bring about great change, even when voices of reason warn of potentially disastrous consequences.

Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph did not know/could not know before the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom whether or not they could mobilize over a quarter of a million people to come to Washington and demonstrate peacefully for these important values. “Voices of reason” (the Kennedy brothers and others) warned that the March could be a flop (or even worse, that it could provoke violence and produce backlash and more resistance). How could they know whether or not a March of the kind and dimensions that they wanted could be pulled off successfully without terrible unintended consequences? Faith and courage in the face of uncertainty were required – as well as great planning and organizational skills.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr; “…And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
  • Mohandas Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
  • Walt Disney: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

5)  Patience, Persistence, Perseverance, and Passion. Persistence will be required, particularly when others cannot see, understand, or believe in the leader’s vision. In Field of Dreams, Ray talks with his brother-in-law, Mark, as the old ballplayers of the 1919 White Sox begin to play on the field. Ray says he needs to go watch the game. Mark assumes Ray means he is going to watch baseball on TV.  Later as Mark realizes that Ray has gone outside, he asks Ray why he has gone out on the bleachers when he thought Ray was going to watch some game on TV. Ray replies that it’s only a practice, not a full game they are playing, because there are only eight of them. Mark cannot see the phantom players and asks, “Eight of what?” Ray points to the field and says, “Them.” Mark turns, looks, and sees no one. “Who them?” he asks. “Them them,” says Ray. “You mean you don’t see it?”  Ray still does not realize that Mark can’t see what’s completely apparent to Annie, Karin, and himself — the ballplayers in the field. He asks again, “You really don’t see them?” Ray’s mother-in-law responds with scorn, “I don’t think it’s very polite to try to make other people feel stupid.”

So what is to be done when others cannot see (or grasp) the vision? Persistence, patience, perseverance, and passion help sustain the efforts that are required at times like these.

Later, Ray takes Terrence Mann to Fenway Park to watch a baseball game because “the voice” has urged him to “EASE HIS PAIN,” and Ray comes to believe it is Terrence Mann’s pain he is supposed to ease. At Fenway Park, Ray alone hears “the voice that this time whispers “GO THE DISTANCE!”  Then he sees a sign on the scoreboard about a baseball player named Archie “Moonlight” Graham who played only half an innining for the New York Giants in 1922. When Terrence Mann asks him, “What is it you’re not telling me”, Ray says, “I’ve already taken up too much of your time.” Mann gets out of the van and says to him, “I wish I had your passion, Ray — misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion.” Passion is the petrol that fuels Ray’s continued quest to understand and “GO THE DISTANCE.”

6)  Great leaders must be open to the mystery – to serendipity and synchronicity – to guiding signals from the Universe as well as their own voices.  

Ray starts to pull away from Mann’s place only to be confronted with Mann standing in front of Ray’s van saying, “Moonlight Graham.” Ray excitedly exclaims. “You saw it, didn’t you? Did you hear the voice, too?” Mann acknowledges that he too heard the voice say, “GO THE DISTANCE.”  Ray asks him, “Do you know what it means?” Mann replies, “It means we’re going to Minnesota to find Moonlight Graham.” “What do we do when we find him?” Ray asks. “How the hell am I supposed to know that?” responds Mann. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxzq9BLE5Hg&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

Neither one of them know the meaning of this message. Yet both know they are called to continue the journey together, to discover the mystery underlying the message to “GO THE DISTANCE” and learn about this ballplayer from more than 50 years before.

When they have just about given up on the search for Moonlight Graham in his home town of Chisholm, Minnesota, Ray and Terrence Mann happen upon a young ballplayer hitchhiking and looking for a chance to play baseball. It is Archy Graham restored to his youth, years before ever having reached the big leagues. And now his dream of the chance to face a big league pitcher is almost magically about to come true on the Field of Dreams that Ray has built. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9yrupye7B0&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

  • Eric Saperston on Serendipity:  Most people define “serendipity” as the occurrence of a happy accident or coincidence with beneficial results. But Maui filmmaker Eric Saperston defines it more proactively as “having an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”[viii]
  • Joseph Jaworski: “As I was to discover, acting in the belief that I was part of a greater whole while maintaining flexibility, patience, and acute awareness lead to ‘all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. . . . The people who come to you are the very people you need in relation to your commitment. Doors open, a sense of flow develops, and you find you are acting in a coherent field of people who may not even be aware of one another. You are not acting individually any longer, but out of the unfolding generative order. . . .  At this point your life becomes a series of predictable miracles.’”[ix]
  • Frank Joseph: “Synchronicities are mostly little miracles through which an otherwise Unseen Consciousness manifests itself in our lives.  They are the means by which that Consciousness communicates with us. We may speak to the gods in prayer, but significant coincidence is the medium whereby they speak to us. . . . To understand our meaningful coincidences is to understand exactly who we are, our place in the grand scheme of existence what we must do, where we are going, and why. . . . The key to attracting synchronicity into your life is to find your own passion, whatever it may be, and awaken it. . . . [A]nyone who strives to live, even occasionally, in accord with his or her ultimate truth will find confirmation and even blessing from the Great Mystery through glittering showers of synchronicity – cosmic awards for individual heroism personally presented by the Master Builder of the Universe, because you are sharing the same work.”[x]
  • Peter Senge, et. al.: “When people connect with their deeper source of intention, they often find themselves experiencing amazingly synchronistic events. . . . ‘the broadcasting of intention ‘ is evident by the way ‘many people sense and are drawn together around a new possibility that’s unfolding. .. It’s usually more than one person who senses it and who wants to help. . . . [T]here’s something about the situation that resonates with people who have a similar intent and a similar sense of principles and values. They’re drawn to it, and then magic begins to happen. . . It would be wrong to say that highly effective innovators expect magic to occur, but they somehow accept it quietly, as an almost inevitable part of the process.”[xi]

7)  When we don’t know something, we need to reach out to others, ask for help, and rev up research and other learning techniques. Ray drives to Boston and seeks Terrence Mann’s help when he realizes that somehow Mann is the one whose pain he is supposed to “ease.” Mann refuses to go with him at first, until Ray threatens to kidnap him to take him to the ballgame that night at Fenway Park. This is going too far, but Ray has done his research. He has discovered Terrence Mann’s last interview, which reveals that “the guy was a baseball fanatic” who dreamed as a child of playing ball in Ebbets Field with Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers and who acknowledged dreaming that dream still.

Similarly, when Ray and Terrence Mann are unable to locate Moonlight Graham in the Chisholm, Minnesota phone book, Terrence points the way to the local newspaper where they ask for help from the editor-archivist. (This was, after all, years before Google or the Internet.)  Research is merely one part of the process and culture of continuous learning spawned by great leaders. Asking for help from others is a key second part of building a culture of continuous learning and excellence in performance.

  • Robert Maurer: identified Four Key Skills that produce success in physical and emotional health, in work, and in relationships. The first of these is: “An awareness and acceptance of fear in self and others.  When afraid, a willingness to reach for support, technical and emotional.”[xii]
  • When the Eric Saperston asked the CEO of Coca-Cola, Donald Keough, “What separates those who succeed from those who do not?” Keough’s answer was: “What separates those who succeed from those who do not is in direct proportion to one’s ability to ask for help. We’re sort of brought up in this society to believe that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. Actually, it’s a sign of strength. Just saying ‘I don’t know. I need your help,’ that’s a sign of wisdom.” [xiii]
  • Consider Peter Senge’s definition of a Learning Organization: “…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”[xiv]

8) We must be able to see the possibility that we can be the authors of our own stories and have courage to play them out even in the face of adversity, ridicule, and self-doubt.

Annie’s brother, Mark, comes to the farm to tell Ray that “It’s time to put away your little fantasies and come down to earth. . . . You have no money. You have a stack of bills to choke a pig, and come fall you have no crop to sell.” When Ray persists and tells Mark to “read my lips, we’re staying and that’s all there is to it,” Mark insists, “Ray, your bankrupt! I’m offering you a way to save your home because I love my sister, but my partners don’t give a damn about you and they’re ready to foreclose right now.”

At this critical moment, Ray and Annie’s daughter, Karen says, “Daddy, we don’t have to sell the farm.” Her uncle Mark tries to silence her, but Ray stops him. She says, “People will come.” Ray asks, “What people, sweetheart?” Karen explains, “From all over. They’ll just decide to take a vacation, see, and they’ll come to Iowa City.  They’ll think it’s really boring, so they’ll drive up and want to pay us — like buying a ticket.” Mark is incredulous: “You’re not seriously listening to all this, are you?”  Annie answers: “Yes.” Mark says, “Wait a minute, why would anybody pay money to come here?”

Again, Karen answers: “To watch the games. It’ll be just like when they were little kids along time ago, and they’ll watch the game and remember what it was like…. People will come.” Mark tries once again, “All right, this is fascinating, but the fact remains you don’t have the money to bring the mortgage up to date so you’re still going to have to sell. I’m sorry, Ray. We got no choice.” At this, he hands Ray the papers to sell the farm.”

But now, Terrence Mann chimes in. “Ray, people will come, Ray!” and he launches into one of the great soliloquies in modern film. “They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom,” he says, and explains that people will come and gladly hand over $20 because “it is money they have and peace they lack.” Terrence Mann continues to explain the vision that both he and Karen see, but Mark insists once again, “Ray, when the bank opens in the morning, they’ll foreclose. . . You’re broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything!”

The tension mounts, as Terrence Mann, tells Ray, “People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come..” and Mark retorts, “Ray, you will lose everything. You will be evicted. Come on, Ray.” Everyone waits for his answer – Annie and Karen, Terrence Mann, Mark, and the ballplayers on the field all looking to him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ1dZhh0_RQ

Finally, Ray says quietly, “I’m not signing.” Despite all the pressure that is on him, Ray refuses to acquiesce to Mark’s argument.

He uses his power to refuse to agree. In doing so he chooses to be the author of his own life, not surrender his power to others. Mark and his partners may take away the farm, but not with Ray’s consent. Often we fail to recognize one of the most important tools we have as leaders, the ability to withhold consent when we really do not agree. It is not easy in this case when so much that is “reasonable” calls out for Ray to go along, but he at least is in touch with his own sense of right and wrong. And he has the support of those around him, who somehow have faith that financial rescue is imminent.

  • Rumi: “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”[xv]
  • Branch Rickey: “Never surrender opportunity for security.”[xvi]
  • Rosa Parks: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat [on the Montgomery, Alabama bus] because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was . . .  no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day . . . No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”[xvii]

9) Anything is possible.  Great leaders often come to the time when they know that something must be done, but they haven’t the foggiest notion of how to do it. Often that’s when “synchronicity,” moments of serendipity, messages from the Universe, or other happy accidents or small miracles occur to light the way. In Field of Dreams, a very dangerous moment changes everything.

Mark responds with fury when Ray refuses to sign the sale papers. “You’re crazy, absolutely nuts … You build a baseball field in the middle of nowhere and you sit there and stare at nothing.” Karen yells back at him, “It’s not nothing.” Mark grabs her and says, “And now you’re turning your daughter into a damn space cadet.” Ray and Mark struggle and in the process Karen falls from the top row of the bleachers and lies unmoving below.

Seeing the emergency, young Archy Graham steps off the Field of Dreams and in an instant is transformed into elderly Doc Graham. He quickly sizes up the situation and realizes, “This child is choking to death.” With a slap on the back, he dislodges the piece of hot dog stuck in her throat when she fell and she begins to breathe again. Holding Karen, Ray says, “Thank you, Doc.” Doc turns to him and says deliberately, “No, son. Thank YOU!”

As Doc Graham heads into the field to return to his beloved Alicia, the phantom ball players all congratulate him and wish him well.  And suddenly, Mark can see what he never could before. “When did these ballplayers get here?” he asks. Annie only laughs. “Hey, Rookie,” Shoeless Joe calls out, “you were good.” Doc Grahams takes that in, then exits via the mysterious gateway of the cornfield. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6bD23vEigE&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

Now, almost equally mysteriously, Mark is transformed and has become a convert. “Do not sell this farm, Ray. You gotta keep this farm” Annie tells him that he’s had a “pretty rough day” and suggests that Mark go inside for a cold drink. Mark agrees and wanders toward the farmhouse muttering, “Don’t sell the farm, Ray.”

  • Theodore Roosevelt: “With self-discipline, almost anything is possible.”[xviii]

Once facilitating a board meeting on whether to adopt a very ambitious new vision and set of goals for a small local non-profit, I asked each member of the board to tell a short story that began with the statement “Anything is possible.” We went around the room and the most amazing stories were told. One board member said, “Anything is possible. I never thought I’d be the mother of a Native American boy from the reservation, but after my daughter visited there, she came home and told me we had to adopt him. I knew my husband would say ‘no’ so I asked him how he felt about the idea. He said, “Great!” So now I am the mother of a Native American boy from the reservation. Anything truly is possible.” Story after story was like that. When it came time to vote, the vote was unanimous – of course, the group decided to go for the ambitious new vision of success and some very challenging goals.”

  • Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”[xix]

10) Don’t ask what’s in it for me? After Doc Graham leaves, the players start to leave the field, too.  Then Shoeless Joe asks, “Do you want to come too?”  Ray thinks the question is addressed to him, but Shoeless Joe says, “I wasn’t asking you. I was asking him” and points to Terrence Mann. Ray can’t understand: “Wait a second, why him? I built this field. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me . . . I want to know what’s out there. I want to see it…. That’s my corn out there. I have done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it. And I haven’t once asked, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Shoeless Joe asks, “What are you saying, Ray?” And Ray responds, “I’m saying, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Joe asks him, “Is that why you did this, for you?”  Ray is speechless. He looks a bit ashamed.  Joe says, “I think you better stay here, Ray.” Ray asks him, “Why?” Before Shoeless Joe can answer Terrence Mann admits to Ray that he did give the interview years before about Ebbetts Field and his love of baseball that he had denied when Ray tried to kidnap him to take him to the game at Fenway Park. He tells Ray that there’s a story “out there” and” if I have the courage to write about it, it’ll make a great story – ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa.’” They agree that Terry is going to write about it – because, as Terrence says, “That’s what I do.” They shake hands and Terry exits through the cornfield. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29nIXG5KJYw&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

Annie and Ray turn to go into the farmhouse, but there is still some unfinished business. They see Shoeless Joe staring at them with an odd smile on his face. “What are you grinning at, you ghost?” asks Ray.  Joe waits for a second then looks over at home plate and says, “If you build it, HE will come.” There at the plate in his catcher’s gear is Ray’s father, John Kinsella, as a young ballplayer, long before Ray was ever born. Ray thinks back to all that has happened – “EASE HIS PAIN,” he says out loud. Annie says, “GO THE DISTANCE.” Now Ray seems to understand the meaning of all that has happened. “It was YOU,” Ray whispers toward his father. “No, Ray,” says Shoeless Jackson, “It was YOU!”

Shoeless Joe leaves the field and only John remains. Ray, taken aback, at the visage of his father as a young man, asks Annie, “What do I say to him?” Annie suggests, “Why don’t you introduce him to his granddaughter?”  John thanks them for building this field and letting all of us play here, then he introduces himself. Ray introduces Annie and Karen, then Annie says, “We’re going to leave you two alone now. I mean if all these people are coming, we have a lot of getting ready to do.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz1TJ4r7bOU&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155 The two – father and son – now walk the diamond in waning light of day. John says, “It’s so beautiful here. To me, it’s like a dream come true.” And after a pause, “Can I ask you something? Is this heaven?” Ray smiles slightly and says only, “It’s Iowa.” “Iowa?” John replies and looks again, “I could have sworn this was heaven.”

As John goes to recover his catcher’s mitt, Ray asks, “Is there a heaven?” John replies with conviction, “Oh, yeah! It’s the place where dreams come true.” Then Ray takes a long look around – at the farmhouse, at Annie and Karen on the porch swing, at the field, and at his father – and with a faraway look in his eyes says, “Maybe this is heaven.”

They say goodnight to one another and shake hands in a strong and prolonged way. As John starts to walk away, Ray stops him, “Hey, Dad,” he asks, “You want to have a catch?” And John says simply, “I’d like that.” And so, as they begin to toss the ball back and forth, the long dreamed of reconciliation between father and son is now complete.

Annie turns on the lights for the field and a stream of car headlights for miles and miles heading toward the Field of Dreams become evident. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_wnD6jxREU&list=PL3B48733EB39B1155

Servant leaders do not ask, “What’s in it for me?”  They live to serve others. They strive for excellence in what they do every day. In the process they discover the amazing incidental benefits of serving others with excellence and determination and without expectation for personal gain. Those benefits include the working out of their own life dramas and the realization that such service in behalf of and in alignment with a noble cause is truly like an experience of heaven on earth. All a servant leader needs to do is to recognize how fortunate he or she is to have the opportunity to lead a cause in service to others.

Conclusion: Successful change leadership is not easy, but it is essential if we are to seek and win peace, justice, environmental protection, opportunity and prosperity for all, including future generations. It starts with an awe-inspiring and unifying vision of success – one that wins an initial cadre of devoted followers. It depends on creating a sense of urgency – what John Kotter calls “a burning platform.”[xx] The vision is not enough, even with a sense of urgency. A strategic action plan to achieve the vision must be developed. The work must be planned, and the plan must be worked – executed with excellence, dedication, and open eyes. Eyes must be open to see the ways in which the plan is working and the ways in which it is not. Adaptation and adjustment will be required along the way, and adaptive capacity must be nourished. Faith, courage, persistence, passion, and humility – the ability to say, “We may not know the way, but we are so determined that we will continue to ask hard questions, challenge ourselves, and be open to learning from others, including those with whom we disagree.” Cherishing co-intelligence, asking for help, and looking for wisdom from others, from the universe, from synchronicities and guides – evident and unlikely – all these elements are essential for successful change leadership. New resources, partnerships, alliances, connections, and resilient capability must be built – to sustain the effort through adversity, setback, disillusionment, and loss. Recognition that anything is possible is essential. For as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Ask Ray Kinsella. Ask Jackie Robinson. Ask my dad.  


In memoriam: With appreciation to and for Myer H. Schwartz, my dad, with whom I was fortunate enough to play catch many twilight summer evenings in Ohio; to go see Jackie Robinson in his final year in baseball; and to take the picture below – a treasured memory.

Jackie Robinson - Crosley Field - June 10, 1956

Jackie Robinson signing autographs outside Crosley Field, Cincinnati, OH, June 10, 1956.


[iv]  Sinek, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html.

[viii]  Eric Saperston, filmmaker, “The Journey,” http://www.amazon.com/The-Journey-Jimmy-Carter/dp/B0000TFGX2

[ix] Jaworski, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership (Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco, 1998), pp. 88, 185.

[x] Joseph, Synchronicity & You (Element Books, Inc.: Boston), 1999,pp. 154-155, 167.

[xi] Senge, Schwarmer, Jaworski & Flowers, Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People Organizations and Society (Currency-Doubleday/Random House, Inc: New York), 2005, pp. 159-60.

[xiv]  Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of Learning Organization; See http://www.stephanehaefliger.com/campus/biblio/017/17_80.pdf

[xv] Rumi, The Essential Rumi, (Coleman Barks Translator, 1995), http://www.frimmin.com/poetry/unfold.php

[xvi]  Rickey quoted in Baseball Almanac, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/quobr.shtml

[xviii]  Quoted in Shakoya, “The Five Essential Characteristics of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs,” http://waltdisneyworlddeals.hotel2y.com/the-5-essential-characteristics-of-highly-successful-entrepreneurs

[xx] “Kotter’s Eight Stage Process of Change,” http://www.changemgr.com/2011/10/25/kotters-eight-stage-process-of-change;