Lead Outside the Circle

By Gerald D. Eady

August 31, 2021

I was drafted by the Seattle Mariners twice, once out of high school and once out of college. There I spent four seasons in the Mariners’ farm system as an outfielder. I thought for sure I was going to the big leagues, and I actually made it. In spring training, I played two games with Ken Griffey, Jr. and shared the same outfield with him.

It was the highlight of my career to meet somebody I idolized as a kid and play with him on the same team, in the same stadium, at the same time. It’s an amazing thing to live out your dream.

Well, now I’m a military officer, a Battalion Commander in the United States Army, another dream of mine. One of the reasons I’m in the Army instead of on the diamond is because I couldn’t hit the slider. It’s a tough pitch. The scouting report was out on me. “Do not throw this kid a fastball; he’ll crush it. Throw him a slider, and he won’t see it.” That was me.

If we’ve met, you would know I’m quiet and reserved, but when I played ball, I was a head case. I was the guy who threw batting gloves and launched bats. I would fuss in the dugout. I would scream inside my glove in the outfield. I was an angry ballplayer.

Once after three straight sliders and a subsequent fit, my coach grabbed me, and he said, “Your antics are driving me crazy. Doing what you do on the sidelines because, why, you got out? So what? Look, I need you to do something. Whenever you’re frustrated, I want you to draw a circle, an imaginary circle, in the ground.”

He took his foot and drew a two-foot circle that surrounded where he was standing.  Coach said, “Anytime you’re in the circle, you can do all the antics you want—scream, fuss, yell. But when you step outside the circle, you have to remember that you have eight other people counting on you to do your job.”

I thought this was dumb, but I found myself in the outfield after striking out drawing the circle in the grass with my foot. I’d still be angry. But before the first pitch of the inning, I’d take a big step to my right and refocus my mind. I was ready.

Coach taught me something valuable that day about how my teammates deserved better.

As I began to control my frustration, I learned that when you’re in the circle carrying on, you’re not paying attention. You’re not mentally focused. You’re really not anything. In fact, you’re no good to anybody when you’re in the circle.

When I joined the Army, I began leading the best America has to offer. I remembered coach, the circle, and that my soldiers deserve a leader with a strong mindset. It’s true not just in this profession, but any profession. Even in your home life you have to have the right mindset. Every single day you have to look at yourself in the mirror and give the best version of yourself to those you lead.

Now is that hard to do?  I think so. I mean, I get cut off in traffic and I want to fuss real loud. Something doesn’t go my way, and I get angry. And yes, sometimes I’ll hit the batting cage and turn the switch to slider, and I still get a little upset. Even today, I’ll draw the little, imaginary circle that no one can see or hear inside.

However, I know I can’t be the best version of myself if I stay in the circle. As a leader, we all have a circle, and it’s okay to be alone in it for a little while. But before you interact with anyone, take a deep breath, step outside the circle, and realize there is a team of people counting on your leadership, not your fussing.

If you’re inside the circle while trying to lead others, build a team, or make an impact, you will fail because leaders inside the circle are worthless. They are angry, frustrated, and usually upset because leadership has become about them, and not the people they lead. Your followers deserve leaders who operate outside the circle and strive to fulfill their potential.

It’s okay to vent privately. It’s not okay to lead from a place of personal instablity. If you want to truly make a significant impact on other people’s lives, come out of the circle and lead.


Major Gerald Eady is former professional baseball player turned career Army Officer and currently serving as a Battalion Commander in Birmingham, Alabama. His thoughts in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Army.


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