Three Leadership Lessons From Yankee Stadium #RE2PECT

Written by: Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

In a town known for revelry and showmanship, Derek Jeter went about his work in a Proverbs 21:5 fashion. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I knew Thursday night was going to be special.

I tuned in to watch what turned out to be one of the most captivating sports finales in the modern era as the beloved Yankee hung up his spikes for the last time.

With the final home game of his career on the line, the Yankees’ captain hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning as New York beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5. However, what struck me most was the commentary from the broadcasters and former players, as well as the post-game interviews with the hero. Here are three leadership lessons that captured my attention.

1. Just Show Up – Repeatedly, I heard Jeter’s coaches and teammates talk about his work ethic. He was the first to arrive for workouts and the last to leave. Whether he was tired, sick, or injured, he played through the pain. In commenting on the fan reaction, he said, “I’m really not sure why they’re chanting ‘thank you’ – all I’ve done is just showed up to do my job every day.”

2. The Prince of Virtues – Derek lived under the brightest of lights imaginable throughout his career as a New York Yankee. His was a privileged life. However, those who know him best talk about his gratitude and his generosity. In a dozen different ways during Jeter’s post-game comments, he deflected praise and responded with gratitude toward the fans, the Yankees organization, his friends, and his family. He clearly understands that gratitude is the Prince of Virtues.

3. The Coin of the Realm – In professional sports, talk is cheap. The athletes who let their game do the talking are the most highly respected. Standing above the bloviation of social media, Jeter went quietly about his work for two decades and built an empire using the coin of the realm – results.

I don’t know where Derek Jeter is on his faith journey. However, I do know that his approach to his work and the way he played the game deserves high praise. Thank you, Derek, for being a bright spot in the current wasteland of professional athletics. And thanks for providing me a teachable moment with my two sons and a memory that will last a lifetime.


Steve Whitaker