Leading from the Inside Out

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I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan. Not a “lifer,” but for the last 13 years, I have loved the Northsiders passionately and am excited to see where the next month will take them. One of the benefits of following this amazingly talented group of athletes and coaches this year has been watching the way the team has coalesced into a high functioning organization that leads from the inside out. Every player, every coach, every staff person in the front office has a role to play in the ultimate goal – the first World Series Championship since 1908. A superb example of this leadership is embodied in David Ross.

Catcher David Ross is a 39-year-old Major Leaguer, a 14-year veteran of the game, who is hanging up his gear when this season is done. In 2015, he joined the Cubs and quickly became a favorite in the clubhouse, looked up to by the many young players on the team. When he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2016 season to spend more time with his family, his teammates began the #YearLongRetirementParty for him, with gifts and tributes, jokes and “Grandpa Rossy” t-shirts. When asked by reporters who they think the MVP should be this year, the other players point directly to him.

Ross calls himself “a backup catcher” and often defers praise to others on the team. His style is humble and self-deprecating, while always seeming to know exactly what to say, and when to say it, to lift others up. He’s a classic Maximizer (Gallup Strengths), using his humor and energy to encourage, support, cajole, or deflate (if needed) those around him, to help them be the best possible versions of themselves as they stretch towards excellence.

From his position behind home plate (literally at the backstop on the field of play), David Ross leads his team. This got me thinking about how leaders don’t always have to be out in front, be the star, or be the most obvious. In my life, I have often found myself “leading from behind home plate” – my career as a Stage Manager in Chicago for 10 years meant that I was in the booth running the show while actors on stage were in the spotlight. My position as Senior Digital Designer at p.Link means that I rarely travel or am on site with the team. Ninety-eight percent of my work is done on my computer in my office, supplying our team with all the visual materials they need in order to have the greatest impact with our clients. Like David Ross, I am watching the field, solid behind home plate, ready to revel in the glory of the win of our team in the field.

I was blessed to be at the Cubs final home game of the regular season this year at Wrigley Field. Ross was catching that game, and when he first came up to bat, I joined 40,000 other people in an electrifying standing ovation to thank him for all he’s done for our team, and by extension, ourselves as well. It was an awesome moment – positive energy and love spiraling upwards in gratitude to one man who was leading from the inside out. We rewarded him again a few innings later with another ovation at his second plate appearance, and wouldn’t you know it, he replied with a home run. It was magical.

At pLink, we believe that everyone is a leader and has a role to play. This was brought to life for me at that ball game in a hugely meaningful way, and inspired me to think about how I can continue to lead from the inside out.

Jennifer Schneider

A founding member of pLink Leadership. Jennifer leads a determined and cohesive team of designers and experts who bring pLink Leadership’s signature ideas and concepts to life and enhance the delivery and acceleration of positive change in the world, As Chief Design Officer, her leadership and design principles inform every piece of company collateral. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and cat where she enjoys Cubs games, Six Flags, and visits from her college-attending daughter.