Do you know who Ashish Nanda is? Ashish Nanda is a professor at Harvard Law School who holds a number of titles and responsibilities.

I heard Professor Nanda speak at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit in 2006. At the time, I was fascinated by what he spoke about. Some people I talked with at the conference were highly critical of Professor Nanda. Why? Because he wasn’t a pastor. He wasn’t teaching from the Bible as much as they’d like.

Also, these individuals had axes to grind with Willow Creek and Bill Hybels, and unfortunately Professor Nanda was caught in their crosshairs. I found that out when trying to discuss the merits of Professor Nanda’s talk with them.

Because of the discussion I had with these individuals, and because of the goodness of the talk itself, I’ve always remembered Professor Nanda’s talk. He discussed his paper on The Risky Business of Hiring Stars. He explained how “good service experience comes from loyal staff”. “Stars” also trend to perform poorer at their new organization, and the performance of their new coworkers also drops. Why is this? A star doesn’t know the people, the team, the environment, the culture, and more. A coworker within the organization has their performance drop because they don’t see any chance for promotion within the organization they had been loyal to.

One of the examples Professor Nanda used was baseball and its farm system. He referenced the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, and how the team that has won usually did so with a reliance on home grown ballplayers. This was true of the Yankees in the late 90’s when they won their consecutive titles. When the Yankees got away from this formula, they didn’t win a title for almost a decade. The Red Sox won in 2004 and 2007 because they had a greater reliance on homegrown ballplayers.

Now, both players signed free agents, and made shrewd trades, but also both organizations were at their best when they had a focus on building up players within their farm systems. Professor Nanda said this is critical to an organization’s success, building up leaders from within its ranks. There are no shortcuts, loyal staff are developed from within.

I thought it was an interesting opinion, but those individuals I discussed it with didn’t see it that way. I have thought if it would have been at a different conference, or someone else saying it (like Mark Driscoll), that these individuals would have embraced what Professor Nanda had said.

That being said, I smiled a little bit when I came across this post on The Resurgence blog. What is it? Leadership Lessons from Baseball. While some of the posts are just snippets now, the post for Develop a Minor League System echoes what Professor Nanda said. Since it’s Mark Driscoll saying it, equating baseball and leadership, I’m sure it will gain traction with a lot of people, in the church, that would have dismissed the idea if they heard it from Professor Nanda.

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