The film Moneyball was based on the bestselling non-fiction book by financial journalist Michael Lewis, the film tells the true story of how Beane and his youthful economics-whiz assistant turned around the fortunes of the Oakland Athletics by using a new approach called “sabermetrics”. This involved using statistics to analyze how many times players stayed “on base” (thereby increasing their likelihood to score runs), rather than relying on the traditional method of valuing players’ batting average. This new approach allowed Beane to ‘buy’ players he could actually afford, and take on the top major league teams using a different strategy than they did.
The first thing about Moneyball to analyze is what makes Billy Beane a leader. As we discussed in class, he had a vision and he worked for it creating a bold plan, believing in his vision, and having the resolve to see his plan through. Billy Beane redoubled his efforts to make his vision a success. He traded players who had the wrong attitude and met face-to-face with the remaining players to explain his direction over and over.
Beane’s resolve and persistence paid off, and the A’s went on to win 109 games that year.
What’s the leadership lesson? Well, it helps to take note that Moneyball is not strictly a baseball story. It is also a story of rapid change in leadership in the business world. In the film Beane changes from participative to autocratic to paternalistic leadership styles.
Analyzing this movie from the leadership aspect you can see that not all leadership models apply to every single case, evidence shows that Beane at the beginning used participative leadership style. The baseball establishment is mostly appalled by Billy’s novel approach to team selection, including his own coaches. The manager accused him of denigrating what scouts have done for 150 years, and ruining the team. He also faces a major blocker to success: Art Howe, the team manager. Art decides who takes the field and, having not bought into the approach, refuses to field players who might make the approach work.
In this part Beane realizes that a participative approach won’t give him the result that he was looking for and he changes to an autocratic approach to get results. Consequently, Billy takes swift action by selling two more of his best players, one to prevent Art from meddling with team selection, and one because he’s a disruptive influence in the dressing room. Things didnt go well and when the team starts badly, the critics feel vindicated. Only then does Billy understand that he made a mistake because first he hasn’t committed himself 100% to his own approach, and second he failed helping others to buy into it. Autocratic leaders need to communicate. When Beane realized that, he started to open up to the people who are being affected by his decisions, sharing his strategy, and recruiting others to do the same.
And finally we can see the last change of leadership to paternalistic style when Billy Beane is seen to learn some important management lessons himself during the course of Moneyball. When we first see him, he has a strict policy of distancing himself from players, which he thinks earns him greater respect and makes it easier to let players go when necessary. Yet gradually Beane learns that he can accomplish more, and inspire others, by actually talking to his team and letting them in on his unusual strategies. Here he is getting closer to his players – explaining the approach, getting by and building team spirit. He even encourages other potential leaders within the team. “You’re smart, you get what we’re trying to do here,” he tells an ageing, cynical but talented player.