Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Person Behind The Title

person behind the title

There is always a person behind the title.  A job title is temporary in nature, a pathway to a paycheck that provides for our families and our future.  It is an important title, but not the most important one.    


Many of my blog posts expand upon a thought from a random moment.  That moment came yesterday following our disappointing loss in the first round of the Training Legends 42 Classic, a tournament honoring the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

As I was walking back to the dugout from shaking hands with the other team, the field umpire walked past me as he was exiting the field.  The guy who had made some questionable calls, wasn’t always in the best position to make them, and misinterpreted a set of clearly stated tournament rules.  Yeah…that guy! 

A question came to my mind, “What does this guy do?”  Very few umpires in this world are only umpires.  He clearly doesn’t work full time as an umpire if he was assigned a 14U travel baseball game.

When we look deeper than the title, there are two things that can improve our effectiveness as a leader:

Be Curious

The question I asked myself was the first step in attempting to learn more about the person behind the title.  Why was he umpiring in the first place?  Did he do it for the love of the game, or did he need the money?  Both valid reasons. 

When I held him to the standard exclusive to his title as umpire, he fell short in my mind.  Then, when I started to ponder on who he was outside the game, I realized that he was human like me.  That Sunday my title was coach…on Monday it will be City Manager.  He was an umpire on Sunday, but I had no clue who he was on Monday.  We stood next to each other every half inning of the game, all I had to do was ask.    

Walt Whitman once said, “Be curious, not judgmental.”  This quote was also made famous in the hit series Ted Lasso.

Curiosity demonstrates a genuine interest in people.  Simple questions can break down barriers and open doors to the hearts and minds of the people we lead.  “How are you?”  “Are you okay?”  Ask and you shall receive.  Receive, you shall connect.

Curiosity initiates the process of getting to know the person behind the title.        

Be Empathetic

Let’s say I acted on my curiosity and found out why he umpired.  What if it wasn’t for the love of the game?  What if it was because he had to?  Maybe he lost a spouse and was the sole provider for his family?  Maybe he made some poor decisions early in life that restricted his career opportunities?  What if he unexpectedly lost the title that actually paid the bills?

If I would have known any of those things, I would have likely been much more empathetic.  I may have still been frustrated with his performance as an umpire, but would have likely given him grace.  I would have seen the story, before the title.

In a Forbes Magazine article, Dr. Tracy Bowers writes on the impact of empathy in the workplace.  She says that, “76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy.”  Creating engagement is one of our most critical responsibilities as leaders. 

There are insightful sayings that become overused, numbing their impact.  One of those is that, “you never know what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”  We don’t and never will.  Empathy allows us to get as close to wearing those shoes without putting them on.

Empathetic leaders connect at a deeper level with the person behind the title.      


I wasn’t curious that day.  Therefore, I was not in a place to be empathetic.  Maybe his title on Monday was City Manager too?  Maybe he writes leadership blogs and articles?  Maybe he had something to pour into me that could have Interceded my world and redirected my journey? 

When we talk about the person behind the title, there are far more important ones than those temporary ones we report to on Mondays.  The ones that really count are father/mother, son/daughter, grandmother/grandfather, brother/sister, and husband/wife.  Titles like friend, soulmate, mentor, protector, and provider.  These are the titles behind the person that will influence the worlds we live in far beyond anything we will ever see.

Be curious.  Be Empathetic.  Make the most of the titles we have.

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