What Atlanta Braves Player Dansby Swanson Told Me about Leadership

Major League Based (MLB) recently announced plans for the 2020 season. Needless to say, this year will be far from normal with the 162-game season reduced to 60 games, changes to roster requirements, adjustments to how extra innings will unfold, and the need to keep players and fans separated. Despite all the differences, much will remain the same, especially when it comes to how players approach their craft.

I recently spoke with Atlanta Braves shortstop, Dansby Swanson, to discuss his career, what he has learned about playing baseball at the highest level, and how his insights can help you to better lead yourself and others.

Here are three takeaways from our conversation that you can apply, regardless of your role, to become a more effective leader and team member.

1. Embrace routine

Having watched plenty of baseball over the years, I have noticed that many players exhibit ritual-like behaviors before stepping into the batter’s box. Sluggers rub dirt on their hands, take practice swings, stare down the pitcher, and send praise to the heavens. When I asked Dansby to tell me about his routine, he didn’t answer with what he did the moments before a pitcher hurled a 90mph fastball his direction. Instead, he took me back several hours earlier when he woke for the day and he walked me through everything that he does leading up to game time.

His discussion about the schedule he follows each day, led me to think about the routines that I have in my life and how well those routines serve me. I invite you to do the same.

Questions to Consider

  • As you think about your daily habits, consider these questions:
  • What daily routines do you follow whether you realize that you are doing them or not?
    Are your daily habits intentionally designed to allow optimal performance or have they merely evolved had gone unchecked?
  • What might you do to change up your routines for the better?

2. Choose loyalty

“Loyalty is a big part of me. Switching from a school that I loved…to a new team was a big deal to me. So, when I was traded, whether it was to my hometown team or not, I felt very disrespected. I felt like I had put all of my love and loyalty toward something…and it was now gone because they didn’t see the same thing. I got introduced to the business world real quick and it can be harsh, very harsh.” – Dansby Swanson

The Arizona Diamondback selected Dansby as the overall number one pick in the 2015 MLB draft. Shortly thereafter, they traded him to the Atlanta Braves. By the end of the 2016 season, Dansby found himself as a starting player for the Braves who was living and working in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

When Dansby was traded he felt as if the loyalty he showed wasn’t being reciprocated, he still chooses to be a loyal person today. In fact, Dansby and his friends created a website called AllThingsLoyal.com with the tagline “Culture. Community. Positivity.” On the site, he shares what he loves about Atlanta and why he is so loyal to the city and its people. In a world where loyalties seem to shift daily, examples of commitment and dedication are a breath of fresh air.

Questions to consider:
As you think about what loyalty means to you, consider these questions:

  • What and who are you willing to stand up for?
  • How do you define loyalty in your work, career, and relationships?
  • What can you do today to make your loyalties better known?

3. Help others

Although baseball is a team sport, many of the statistics and platitudes focus on individual players and individual achievements. Arguably, a system like this can make it easy for a player to focus on himself and lose perspective. Dansby told me that he purposely focuses on trying to help others to succeed in whatever way he can.

“Are you willing to help push players along from the back, not just pull them from the front…the more I can dive into my teammates and give them a resource…I’m ok with that. I like to create a fun, loving, happy, positive environment where we can grow together.” – Dansby Swanson

Questions to consider:

As think about those who surround you, consider these questions:

  • Do you know what others on your team need from you in order to take their performance to the next level?
  • Are you too focused on your own stats and missing the chance to help the team to win?
  • What might you do differently going forward to show up better for your teammates?

You can listen to my entire conversation with Dansby here.


Photo courtesy of Joshua Peacock on Unsplash.