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Leadership Thought #375 – Change Management Lessons From The Movie Moneyball

June 25, 2012

MONEYBALL | Sony Pictures Entertainment

Change management lessons can appear from a wide variety of sources.

As a diehard New York Yankee fan, I must admit to not being all that excited about the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt when it came out.  The story is about the exploits of Billy Beane as General Manager of The Oakland A’s when he transformed his approach to running a baseball team.  When it got nominated for an Academy Award, I thought I should see it one day but didn’t rush out to buy it.  I finally saw it last week and was blown away.  I guess at this point I should trust anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with.   Not only is the movie professionally written, directed, and acted, but it also has many important change management lessons that are applicable to my work with business leaders.  It was as if they had a leadership expert on the writing team.  I’d like to highlight the following takeaways:

  • Never get complacent about leadership, especially when you have had some success. It is your job to push the organization to make it stronger.
  • Always be on the lookout for talent and don’t get too hung up on a person’s status or experience when screening possibilities.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of listening to what others have to say about the state of your organization/industry – be open to constructive non-conventional thinking.
  • Just because you don’t initially understand something doesn’t mean you can’t learn about it and apply it to our organization (especially if you hire someone who is well versed in the concept).
  • Accept your reality and design a strategy that is aligned with it – not every team has Yankee money.
  • Expect resistance when you decide to make major changes and challenge conventional wisdom, but don’t lose your nerve and keep moving forward.
  • There is a substantial difference between earning people’s respect and being popular – always choose the former over the latter.
  • Pick your battles wisely and don’t avoid difficult conversations with key people, but instead be honest and straightforward with them.
  • As the leader, many people need to feel that you believe in them before they can fully believe in themselves.
  • Don’t be afraid to move out people who are a bad fit with your culture/system – remove the nonbelievers and bad role models.
  • Understand that your job is to build the best team not become enamored with superstar position players – sometimes you need to let talented people go.
  • There are times when the leader must embrace his/her communication role and rally and/or challenge the team.
  • When instituting major change, expect a performance dip before things get better – it takes some time for people to adjust.
  • There are more important things than money, starting with how you feel about yourself, your work, and the needs of those closest to you.


I’d recommend that anyone who is in a leadership position watch this movie and identify the commonalities with their own experience.  Change management is a critical leadership skill.  When it is at its best, it feels like an accurate reflection of human experience and resonates deeply on an individual level.  Leadership will always be as much art as it is science.