What Leadership Lessons Can We Learn from the Big Dance?

Whether you’re a CEO, a director at a non-profit, a nurse manager or the pastor of your parish, there were three important leadership elements to be learned from the NCAA Basketball tournaments.

The first revelation is that there are a variety of leadership styles. Some work and some don’t. When I was a kid, the public thought there were three very specific leadership styles, and no one knew there were others. You either were a military leader (a former general or major who’d come home from the war); you were a captain of industry; or you were a successful sports coach (Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi).

If you watched the Big Dance and looked at more than the bouncing ball, you would’ve seen coaches who are yellers, coaches who are Jimmy Buffet, coaches who are micro-managers, coaches who are preachers and coaches who are teachers.

Leadership style is critical because it impacts how the people on your team function. I use ‘team’ in a global sense, not specific to athletics. The way you behave rubs off on the people around you. If you panic all the time, cry ‘the sky is falling’ every time you face adversity, and generally behave like your hair is on fire 24/7, that’s how the members of your team will act.

If you face adversity with calm, poise, empathy and thoughtfulness, that’s how your players will respond in the same scenarios. How do you want your team to behave?

The second element that came out of the tournament is that, as the manager of an enterprise, large or small, you need to be aware of the impact that individuals outside of your enterprise have on your endeavor. What do I mean by that?

When you watch basketball coaches, or any athletic coach, watch how they interact with the officials who administer the game their team is competing in. How do they interact with the media? How do they interact with the fans? If a coach chooses to berate the officials at every bad call, eventually that’s going to have a negative impact on his team. Officials are human. If a coach acts like a jerk when a television reporter is trying to interview him/her as they are going into the locker room at halftime, that reflects poorly on the program and on the university. It might influence a potential donor to the institution. (BTW, as a former college athlete, a coach and a journalist, I think the stupidest thing television tries to do is to interview a coach in the heat of battle, and in the middle of the contest). Instead of verbally assaulting a referee after a questionable call, how might it impact that coach’s team if he, instead, calmly talked to the official during a free throw or a television timeout when no one else notices?

Finally, and maybe most important, how do you treat the people on your team…the people who work for you, the people who manufacture your product, the people who administer your programs and services? I see too many coaches (and bosses in every other enterprise) who do not understand this simple principal: your leadership style does not work for everyone on your team. Every employee on your staff, every player on your team, every student in your classroom will not respond to your leadership style in the same manner. We know, from science, that everyone has different ways that they learn information, they have a different way that they respond to criticism AND to praise. It’s the responsibility of the leader to figure out how his co-workers, his players, his sales staff, etc. respond to those different stimuli. Does that mean that the leader has to be a chameleon in order to satisfy everyone? No, that violates what I believe is the most important characteristic of effective leadership (Authenticity). But the leader must figure out how best to motivate, criticize and praise the members of his team in order to earn their best performance.

 

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2017 at 5:38 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

 

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