Servant-Leadership 101: Nonpartisan Lesson (Moneyball Movie Example)

The second-to-last principle in the Acronym Model of SERVANT-Leadership™ is Nonpartisan. This 6-minute lesson demonstrates the Nonpartisan principle, through the example of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Billy Beane was manager of the Oakland A’s Major League Baseball team, when their player salary budget was slashed. He knew they could not compete with major budget teams like the Yankees and Red Sox through traditional means. So, Beane set out to find a new approach. That’s when he meets Peter Brand.

Brand is a recent college graduate in a room full seasoned MLB experts. Yet Beane watches in amazement as those supposed experts all yield to the wisdom of Brand. After that conversation, Beane pulls Brand aside to find out his secret.

This scene exemplifies the nonpartisan principle. In it, we see 20+ year veteran on the game seek insight from someone many years his junior. Beane does not follow traditional thinking that suggests Brand would underrate Brand. Instead, Beane remains open to new ideas from anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Watch this clip to see how the nonpartisan principle played a major role in the Oakland A’s success in the early 1990s.

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Sony Pictures
September 23, 2011

Servant-Leadership Principle Reflection Questions on Nonpartisan

  1. Who has ideas that you’re that you may need to consider giving more time and consideration?
  2. How can you ensure underrepresented people and perspectives are reflected in your decision-making process?
  3. How do you encourage those who may be more quiet and reserved, to voice their ideas and insights?

If you or your organization could use support developing leaders, let’s talk!

Full Video Transcript

BRAND: There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening and this leads people who run major league baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. I apologize.

BEN: The Oakland A’s baseball team has never been known to have a major budget. They couldn’t compete with the likes of the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox when it came to players salaries. During their 2002 season, general manager Billy Beane, played here by Brad Pitt, knew he needed a new approach to building his team, if they were to compete for a national championship. During a meeting with another team in which he attempts to trade some key players, he watches in amazement as 30-year veterans of the game all look to a fresh college graduate for insights. Peter Brand, played here by Jonah Hill, is that individual. Before he leaves the building that day, Billy Beane pulls that young man aside…

BRAND: There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening and this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. I apologize.

BEANE: Go on.

BRAND: Okay. People who run ball clubs – they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins and in order to buy wins you need to buy runs. You’re trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who’s worth seven and a half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, What Ii see is – is an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy’s got a great glove. He’s a decent lead-off hitter. He can steal bases – but is he worth the 7.5 million dollars a year the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions and if I say it to anybody, I’m – I’m ostracized. I’m – I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m – I’m cagey about this with you. That’s why I – I respect you, Mr. Beane. And if you want full disclosure, I think it’s a good thing that you got Damon off of your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

BEANE: Where you from Pete? Maryland. Where’d you go to school? Yale. I went to Yale. What’d you study? Economics. I studied economics.

BEANE: Yale, economics, baseball. You’re funny.

FUSON: You can’t deny his offensive output. He can play and we need people that can play. Who do you want to talk about first?

BEANE: None of them.

FUSON: Billy, we got 38 home runs and 120 guys –

BEANE: You’re still trying to replace Giambi – I told you, we can’t do it and we can’t do it now! What we might be able to do is recreate him. Recreate him in the aggregate. What is Giambi’s on-base percentage?

FUSON: It was 477.

BEANE: Damon’s on base?

FUSON: 324.

BEANE: And Almatus was 291. Add that up and you get –

BRAND: Do you want me to speak?

BEANE: When I point you, yeah.

BRAND: 1092.

BEANE: Divided by three?

BRAND: 364.

BEANE: That’s what we’re looking for! Three ball players – Three ball players whose average OBP is 364.

POLONI: That doesn’t look right – doesn’t come out right.

BEANE: That’s right.

FUSON: Billy?

BEANE: You got to carry the 1. Yeah?

FUSON: Who’s that?

BEANE: That’s Pete.

FUSON: Does Pete really need to be here?

BEANE: Yes he does. Okay here’s who we want – number one is Jason’s little brother Jeremy.

POLONI: Billy, that’s trouble.

BEN: Soon after that meeting, Billy Beane recruited Peter Brand and they turn around the Oakland A’s using an innovative method of identifying underrated talent. While most managers would have scoffed at the idea of relying on ideas from a fresh college graduate, Billy practices nonpartisan thinking. As a result, the Oakland A’s achieved the longest winning record in Major League Baseball history and eventually won the American League West title, before other teams took notice and began using the same system. How are you looking to others for innovative ideas? How are you remaining open to new concepts and innovations from places that others might not be willing to consider? How are you being nonpartisan in your thinking?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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