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Leading from the Bench

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Most of us will never know what it feels like to win a national championship or a Super Bowl, however – we’ve all been on a team either athletically, professionally, or simply within our family. Our Final Four may have been running a half marathon, giving a big presentation, landing a huge client (and then delivering on that huge client!), starting a family – the list goes on and on.

I was a member of an actual championship team – just on a slightly smaller scale than the March Madness going on around us. I was on the Appleton East Softball team and we won the 2000 WIAA Division 1 State Championship. I was also a leader on that team. Can you guess my batting average or fielding stats for our championship game? I’ll give you a hint – it was .000. I didn’t play one inning of that game – but I still felt the same joy as our record setting pitcher (29 strikeouts throughout the tournament!).

I’m a champion because I was part of the team and when a team succeeds we all share in the victory. Bench strength is critical on any team or organization. If there isn’t physical and emotional leadership beyond your All Stars, there isn’t an opportunity for growth and repeatable results. Respect and trust are the building blocks of this cyclical relationship. We all trust each other to put in 110% effort. We may be at different ability levels on a team or titles within an organization, but there should always be an even playing field of respect.

What did leading from the bench mean for me specifically? It meant supporting those taking the field, putting in 110% effort in conditioning and preparation, it meant having a positive attitude and providing comic relief (so much comic relief). Find your role and kick butt at it – teams grow and leading from the bench might evolve into leading from the field… in sports, work, and life!

Think about your own teams – are you the Coach, the All Star, or are you the bench strength?

If you’re the coach or All Star – have you created an environment where everyone on your team can lead with confidence? Are you giving 110% effort? Is there respect and trust?

If you’re the bench strength are you doing your part to reach your team goals? Are you giving 110% effort? Is there respect and trust?

Leaders can be found at all levels – from the MVP to the bench warmer (I can say that because I was one). Encouraging leadership from everyone builds stronger teams and produces greater results.


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