Forbes: What Leaders Can Learn From Shohei Ohtani

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The best story in baseball in this season -- and one of the most exciting in the past two decades -- involves a player unknown to most fans a year ago. Last winter, the Angels signed Shohei Ohtani, nicknamed "the Japanese Babe Ruth" because of his prowess as both a pitcher and a hitter in Japan, to great fanfare, but after a lackluster performance in spring training, Ohtani started his rookie year with dimmed expectations. Two months into his career, prior to an elbow injury that has fans from southern California to East Asia on edge, Ohtani established himself as arguably the best player in baseball, and unquestionably the most unique since The Babe. "Shotime" has proven to be a revelation, dominating hitters from the mound and hitting for power and average at the plate. Ohtani has become invaluable to the Angels and is in the process of disrupting the game of baseball in a lasting way. As fans from the across the globe enjoy Shotime, leaders can learn important lessons from the Angels' phenom.

Transformational Figures Are Driven By Mission, Not Money

I was once staying in the same hotel as the Dodgers when I happened to be in the same city they were visiting. A conversation with one of the players stood out: I asked him which of the teams he had played for over the course of his career he enjoyed playing for the most. He responded, "It's all about the paycheck." To many people, whether they are professional athletes, lawyers, salesmen or even entrepreneurs, there is a nothing more important professionally than take-home pay.

But transformational figures like Shohei Ohtani are driven not primarily by money, but by a greater mission. Ohtani left over $100 million on the table to play Major League Baseball this season. If he had waited two seasons, he would have been a free agent and likely would have commanded well into nine figures on the free market. Instead, he traded free agency for the chance to accelerate his career, become even better by playing with and against the best players in the world and strive toward his goal of becoming the best player in baseball.

Leaders who are motivated by something more than money will be better able to push past the inevitable rocky roads along the path to success, as their commitment to what they are pursuing will not be shaken by moments of financial uncertainty. When you are driven by a broader mission, you can also more naturally inspire and rally others, as evangelizing your cause and winning buy-in becomes second nature.

Respect History, But Do Not Be Afraid Of It

The best way to predict the future is by studying the past. History repeats itself, and those who fail to study or respect history run the risk of making mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided. However, there is a first time for everything, and while you should understand the precedents governing your ecosystem, you should not be constrained by them. Just because no one has ever done something before does not mean that it cannot be done.Shohei Ohtani has been shattering baseball’s norms at the highest levels in the U.S. and Japan — hitting and pitching instead of focusing on one over the other. Ohtani was not afraid that no player in the modern era has enjoyed sustained success as a hitter and as a pitcher -- he embraced the challenge head-on. When considering whether to try to blaze a new path, assess the risks, understand where and why others have fallen off and if you have strong enough reason to believe you can become the first, go for it.

Adam Mendler