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Practicing Selfless Leadership with Kevin Young

Most people believe there are two paths in life – a path of selflessness and a path of self-actualization – but what if I told you that selflessness and self-actualization were able to coexist?

As it happens, when you practice selfless leadership, these driving forces harmonize and give you the capacity to maximize collective impact. So, on this episode of Ignition Point, we’re going to uncover what it takes to become a selfless team player with the help of Kevin Young from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After his 13 Seasons in the league, Kevin has since spent time as an MLB Consultant, a Coach, and most recently, he’s even joined the Pirates’ broadcast crew as a commentator; but every step of the way he’s found ways to give back by creating growth opportunities in youth sports. Kevin’s career and his life outside of Major League Baseball have given him a unique understanding of how to prioritize the needs of his team and his community.

So, let’s get after it! Click the Play Button right now to hear Kevin’s take on practicing selfless leadership.

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Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller and you’re listening to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to get you fired up and ready to win the week.

Of all the one-liners and anecdotes I throw around, I think there’s only one that represents the common ground shared by all the great leaders and innovators. It’s the timeless saying, “build the world you want to play in,” which reminds you that you’re the master of your own destiny. And while it could also be the title of a manifesto co-authored by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, it also provides a really big catch-22.

When you’ve got that profound clarity – that vision – for where you see yourself going, and you’re locked-in to the grind of build, build, build; well, you gradually lose sight of your relationships. Then, by the time the world you envisioned is built, you’ll find yourself playing alone.

So, does the question become, “how can you avoid playing with yourself?”

Nope, that’s a question for a completely different podcast.

Instead, we’ve got to figure out if self-actualization and selflessness are able to coexist – and to help us get to the bottom of that, today I’m joined by Kevin Young from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Known in and around baseball as KY, Kevin spent eleven seasons with the Pirates and one season with his hometown Kansas City Royals. During his time with the Pirates, he became one of two players in franchise history to record 100 RBIs, 40 doubles, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season; and even broke the single season fielding percentage record formerly held by Willie Stargell.

After playing his final game with the Pirates in 2003, Kevin had cemented his place in Pittsburgh’s record book – ranking second in home runs and third for games played at his position – and he had also been honored with Pittsburgh’s local Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship, community involvement and team contribution.

Even though he’s no longer playing in the Big Leagues, Kevin has spent time in Major League Baseball as a Consultant, a Coach, and most recently, he’s even joined the Pirates’ broadcast crew as a commentator.

Kevin’s career in the Big Leagues and his life outside of baseball have given him a unique understanding of how to prioritize the needs of his team and his community, and that’s absolutely worth learning from.

So, let’s get after it! Here to share his perspective on practicing selfless leadership, this is Kevin Young.


A lot of times what happens is – you see yourself as a leader and you have to be this strong individual that has all the answers.

A lot of that we’ve learned from the Navy Seals – for example – on how they train, how they complement one another. They know there’s a definitive leader, but at the same time, so many are so gifted in different areas that you’re able to share information to make the team and the group better.

That’s what makes our sport unique in baseball, is that we’re playing it every day. So, you have an opportunity every day to make somebody better.

When I look back over the course of my career in baseball, I remember personal instances where everybody’s a little tired, but the same time every game means being back in the playoff hunt.

I know one time I had suffered an injury to a thumb ligament and I was out; and I remember the last month of the season we’re fighting for this playoff spot, and we had one of our pitchers – that was a starting pitcher; and typically starting pitchers, when they’re not playing, they’re flipping sunflower seeds or anything attention deficit.

But they were up on a camera, just messing around doing some stuff, and we ended up losing the game. And I remember coming into clubhouse and just absolutely losing my stuff. And a lot of it was based off of not recognizing what was at stake.

I think a lot of times when you are in something in a fight, you’ve been doing it since February – mid-February – you know these guys better than you know your family. So, to be able to go through that whole process and then get to that place where we’re not all pulling in the same direction by appearance, it was an opportunity for me to share exactly what I thought that should look like.

Then as I went off on 24 of my peers, the manager came out of his office and grabbed me and brought me back and we sat down and had a discussion about it; but sometimes when you’re in the hunt, you see things that other people just can’t see.

And a manager is known for recognizing where the club is, but as a player, it had been laid down that way from the players that impacted my life as a young player. They were able to show me what it was like to be a professional; someone that takes their job seriously, they’re committed to it, and they realize it’s an opportunity for them to get better – not only for themselves, but to make other people better around them.

So, it’s holding ourselves to a different standard and then being committed to it on a daily basis.

These are the connections that we all need to be able to recognize. In the process of doing that, it does take time, patience, awareness, and an attention to detail; so, I think when we’re in that right frame of mind, that allows us to be the best that we can be for others.

One of the big things that I can say from a leadership standpoint that you have to be able to identify with is your audience. Sometimes, knowing who they are is the most important part of it.

We look back at coaching methods, and there was a coach that was virtually a dictator, and they told you exactly what they wanted you to do and you were expected to respond with the results.

Well, nowadays as we know, everybody is wired differently. They process information differently, they respond differently. Those are the type of things that we really need to look at. It’s not by just that one consistent message from that one loud voice.

Leadership is not dictatorship. It’s called leadership for a reason.

You may want an employee to do what you want them to do, but how do you get them there? It’s not just the education behind it, it’s knowing the individual and how they learn, how they process; sometimes that may be taking him out for lunch. Getting to know him and his background and little history about the individual.

The buy-in in that is huge because you feel respected. Once you feel respected, you may get the results back that you want from that individual player, coach, employee, whatever it may be.

Now you’ve created a culture that’s consistent with serving one another.

The next question is: how do we get guys to understand that? And it goes back to the personal relationship.

What do you know about him? Is he going to show up every single day? Is he going to show up in training? Is he going to show up in practice? Because if he is, he makes people better around him.

If you have a guy that’s coming to work four days a week instead of seven, we have a problem; and that’s where we go back to the value.

When it comes to development, when it comes to leadership; when you have a player or a student that’s extremely gifted, the one thing that you want to do naturally is challenge them. Well, the reality of it is is that they haven’t been challenged a ton when it comes to the training part, and they’ve been so gifted that when you challenge somebody like that, the challenge becomes making sure that they understand – whether it be on the field or in the clubhouse – that this is the opportunity that they have to impact those around them and make them better.

I always had the belief that the only thing we didn’t learn how to do was pee and poop. Everything else has been taught to us. So, if that’s the reality, then humility comes into play a little bit.

Now all of a sudden, you know it’s not about us beating our chest, thinking how gifted we are, and what we know; and true leaders – in my thought process – they exude certain things.

The caring. The attention to detail. Humility.

Those are all things that are necessary to look at when trying to identify good leadership. Other people that don’t recognize those things as good leadership, probably don’t make good leaders.

It’s one thing when you want something from somebody, it’s another thing when you’re willing to do something to help them get it. There’s a big difference.

You know, I tease all the time and say, “you know, I’m sure everybody wants to win the lottery, but only a certain amount of people actually get the ticket.”

You have zero chance of winning the lottery if you don’t get the ticket. So, you have to invest. You have to invest in your time. Sometimes it requires you doing things that you necessarily don’t want to do, but that’s how we get there.

So, when we get to that place, I think there’s a dynamic there that allows us to improve ourselves and eventually it changes the dynamic of others. And so, you have an opportunity every single day.

Every second you’re making a decision. It’s something that enables you to see things bigger; see things with a little more vision and clarity and the end result – not necessarily something that is immediate all the time.

If I’m always in that framework and that mindset, everything tends to work out pretty good.

We have a big thing that we’ve inherited in our household that I’ve learned from work more than anything, and that’s the ability to prepare, execute and review.

So, the preparation is a big part of it. Being able to get to a place where we know with detail how we’re going to train, how we’re going to do these things.

And then the execute part. What happens? Are we able to execute the way we planned it?

And then the review piece is huge because, now we get to go back and look and see, how did we perform? How did we do it? Did we do it as efficient as possible?

So, it gives us that enlightened perspective overall for that day. And guess what; tomorrow we get to do it again.

And so we continue to grow that process over time, making adjustments necessary along the way, and that’s what helps us get to that place of being committed to and – as we’ve mentioned before – sustaining over long periods of time.

We’re training in that same mindset consistently. Again, it’s preparing, it’s executing. then it’s reviewing. A constant cycle of understanding: one day, one goal, one task at a time, and then each day we get to improve on that.


Let me start out by giving a big thank you to Kevin Young for taking the time to contribute to this week’s show.

If you’re interested in learning more about him or checking out what he’s up to, you can visit for more information. Again, that’s

As you’ve probably noticed, there are hundreds of motivational posts that’re scattered all across social media that talk about team dynamics, like, “teamwork makes the dream work!” Or, “there’s no I in team.” And sure, they’re cute, but bringing out the best in your team isn’t a natural talent, so I want to dig a little deeper and help you understand what it takes to become a selfless team player.

One of the big contributing factors is born out of what Josh Rawitch shared on our last episode about making an impact, but as the saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, you’ve got to go together.”

So, reflecting on what Kevin suggested, that’s got to start with learning to identify and play to one another’s strengths.

Typically, you’ve got to learn that firsthand by working under team leaders who put the team above their own self-validation and then modeling your decision-making after theirs.

From that angle, look to your leaders and evaluate their actions; but if all of a sudden you’ve been thrown into the hot seat as a leader or you’re part of an unconventional team that lacks a classic leadership structure, you’re going to want to start off by limiting your personal bias.

Generally speaking, bias comes from how you assign positive or negative weight to different ideas, people, groups or beliefs and how close-minded you are in your feelings. It can be challenging to overcome, but you’ve got to control your bias in order to make impartial decisions that aren’t clouded by emotional judgments.

Just speaking from experience, I’ve found there are two ways to limit your bias. The first is evaluating the benefits of two opposing viewpoints before making decisions; while the second is democratizing decisions by mediating team discussions in order to identify the most effective path forward.

That being said, you need to understand that you’ll never be able to get rid of all of your personal bias. The important part is learning to recognize it, so that you can set aside all of those self-serving motives and make decisions that are in the best interest of your team.

Remember: Cooperation is key. When the team wins, everyone wins!

The next thing you’ve got to deal with once bias is in the rearview, is going to be ego.

That’s because – without a shadow of a doubt – there’s going to come a time when your team is going to need you to step into a role that you won’t want to fill.

Whether you see it as “below you,” or you may think your talents could be better used elsewhere; the reason can take many forms, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Even if you’re the definitive team MVP – you’re a Mike Trout or a LeBron James, that caliber of talent – it doesn’t matter! You can’t get caught up in a comparison mindset.

In the words of many of the greatest coaches: when you’re part of a team, you’re not entitled to jack shit. Think about it: what’s best for you may not be best for the team. Or even the other way around!

To quote one of my favorite baseball-isms, “don’t get hung up on where you bat in the lineup.”

No title or position should ever keep you from making an impact. When the time comes, and you’re asked to step into that role that you don’t necessarily want to fill, just make damn sure that you’re bringing your best to the role and let your game speak for itself.

Now, I want to take a second to make one thing crystal clear. This is not about putting the team on your back or putting the team before yourself. Both of those sayings lead to one thing – burnout.

A few years back, Matt Dajer from Yes Theory shared a great post on this that pointed out how selflessness can only come from an initial place of selfishness. Even though you’re probably thinking that this contradicts everything I’ve been saying, his message was that you’ve got to take care of yourself so that you can have the energy to care for others.

If you want to read Matt’s original post, I’ll have it linked in the show notes, but hold on to that message and don’t lose sight of the fact that you are part of the team. When your needs and the needs of your teammates are met, celebrate them as team wins and you’ll ignite the success of your team by cutting out your own need for self-validation.

That’s really it! By keeping bias, ego, and your desire for self-validation in check, you’ve put together everything you need to practice selfless leadership. But what I find remarkable, is that selflessness is a superpower that can transform you into a unifying force for your team whether you’re the Head Coach, the team MVP, a utility player, or even if you’re leading from the bench.

So, here’s my challenge to you: Work toward becoming a selfless leader on your team, but bring that trait with you everywhere.

If you haven’t been outside lately, our world is, well, a bit of a hot mess right now. Sorry if that’s news to you, but I’d even argue that it’s broken. The good news is that just because it’s broken, doesn’t mean we can’t fix it. In fact, we can all play a part in making it better because together, we are one team.

Just start by treating others with respect, listening from a place of empathy, and maybe consider going out of your way to show someone compassion or kindness.

It’s our duty to selflessly lead by example and make our world a better place than it was yesterday.

So, let’s get started.

If you heard something on today’s episode that you’d like to follow up with me on or you’re looking for input on something a bit different, feel free to submit your questions for a chance to be featured on an upcoming episode of Ignition Point. To submit your question, you can visit

Again, I’d like to give a big thank you to Kevin Young for joining the show.

If you’re looking to connect with Kevin or you need to track down any of the links mentioned throughout the episode, you can find them all in the Show Notes up at

Before we wrap this up, if this episode got you fired up and you’d like to support the show, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a minute to visit, where you can tell me what you think of the show by writing a review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser.

Now, if you want to raise the bar for your Personal Brand or level up the Brand Strategy of your business, I want you to know that right now is the perfect time to take your next leap forward. If you want to learn more about how I can help, you can always reach me directly by sending an email to or by visiting

Well, that’s going to do it for this episode, so stay motivated and keep moving forward.

If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.

I’ll look forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.

Now get on out there and win the week!