"You really want to avoid the potential for complacency," Joe Maddon told David Axelrod on The Axe Files, a podcast from the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics and CNN. "If you're uncomfortable, growth continues. If you're comfortable, growth diminishes."
No team has won back-to-back championships since the New York Yankees captured their third straight title in 2000.
Maddon, 63, a master motivator whose quirky style of leadership helped lead a young Cubs team to the franchises' first championship in 108 years, acknowledges the challenge the Cubs face when the season that opens Sunday in St. Louis. In fact, he embraces it.
"You combat [pressure] by talking about it," Maddon explains. "You run toward the issue or the problem, you don't run away from it. The best way to disarm it is to do that."
Maddon, whose basket of tricks has included magicians, costume parties and pre-game petting zoos, says he derived this lesson, not from Baseball Digest, but Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger.
"I've talked about my Jack Ryan approach," remarked Maddon. "I used to read all of [Clancy's] stuff."
Despite the heavy weight of baseball's crown, Maddon is bullish on his team's chances. He says it's not only the prodigious talent of a roster that is largely returning but the strength of their collective character.
The Cubs' young stars "have not been raised by wolves," Maddon said wryly, "and the veterans in this group are all winners."
"You could have veterans or the term 'leadership' apply to your group and it could be the absolute worst thing, because these guys are leading you down the wrong path," he continued. "Our lead bulls lead us down the proper path."
Maddon, who spent 30 years as a player, scout, coach and minor league manager before getting his first shot at leading a big-league team with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2005, says he feels he's earned what every baseball manager yearns for.
"I feel like I have employment security," said the three-time Manager of the Year. "Not job security. Job security indicates the manager of the Cubs. Employment security would be industry-wide."
"Whatever I choose to do in the coming years, I'll be able to do."
You can hear the full conversation with Cubs manager Maddon on baseball, life and leadership at podcast.cnn.com/axefiles
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