5 Leadership Lessons from March Madness
Woohoo! March Madness is in full swing! Over the course of several weeks, millions of sports fans are watching the nation’s top college basketball teams compete to become the 2013 NCAA champion.
While some workplaces might experience a slight dip in productivity due to the bracket managing, office pool haggling and late night game viewing, there ARE Leadership Lessons to be learned during March Madness. The one-and-done format is a pressure cooker. There will be record breaking performances (Florida Gulf Coast anybody?) and extraordinary disappointments (my beloved Badgers, Indiana…) But as you watch the tournament this year, consider the ways different coaches demonstrate leadership before, during, and after the games.
Then tell your manager tomorrow morning that you stayed up late doing some ‘Leadership Training’.
- Your most important player doesn’t always score the most points ADuke coach, Mike Krzyzewski’s tournament record boasts more wins, more Final Four appearances, and more championships than any active coach. This year, Coach Krzyzewski is deeply appreciative of one of the least-celebrated Blue Devils starter, Tyler Thornton. Thornton averages 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. And yet Coach Krzyzewski shared this: “Tyler Thornton doesn’t have to take a shot, and he’s important because of his defense, leadership, his presence on the court.” Wise leaders recognize that it takes 10 hands to win a game.
Take the time to recognize your talented team members. The most powerful motivator in sports and in life is a compliment from someone you respect.It’s true for you, and it’s true for those you lead.
- You Play like you Practice. In the Navy, we call this “Train like you Fight and Fight Like You Train” We want to show up ‘at the merge’ with as much confidence in ourselves and in our wingman as possible. We train aggressively for every scenario imaginable so there are no surprises. Nothing is left to chance.You can’t expect to show up on game day and suddenly perform better than you ever have in the past. True confidence comes from proper preparation and hard work. It’s getting the ‘little things’ right. The basics. Mastery of the basics become habits. And good habits stand up under pressure and help to win the game. You must earn the right to be confident.
- Effective Leadership Earns Respect and Creates Sustainable Results. Dictator-style leaders rule by fear, force, humiliation and intimidation. In this years’ March Madness field, there are not many examples of this leadership style. Which is progress. Those leadership ’skills’ have no place in college basketball or in your organization. They are usually seen in prison guards. Think about it. You achieve better, more sustainable results with high performers and talented team mates when you treat them with respect.
- Leadership by Example. A great leader models the behavior of what he or she wants the team to become. The most talented, charismatic leader will destroy a team- or a business- when they fail to Lead by Example. As a leader, you build trust within your team each time you put the teams’ needs above your own. Each time you choose integrity over title, honor over personal comfort and truth over convenience. But that respect and loyalty must be earned. Be loyal to your people, your team mates, your troops, and that loyalty will be returned ten-fold.
- Leadership so Great a 12 year old can Recognize it! The basics matter. Reputation. Self-Control. Discipline. Positive Attitude. Likeability. A great example from this year’s tournament goes to none other than legendary head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, Coach Tom Izzo Coach Izzo has made 16 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. And yet his 12 year old son is choosing Duke over his fathers’ Spartans.
Let’s take a peek at how THAT happened!
Below is a back and forth exchange between Coach K and Coach Izzo from USA Today
“There’s nothing about Tom that I don’t think is good,” he (Coach K) said. “If we lose to them, believe me, I will hug him and shake his hand, and he’ll do the same for me. I like that. I think it’s more the way it used to be in coaching.”
Tom likes Mike.
“One thing I learned from him early on; when I was trying to win one game in a tournament, he was trying to win the weekend, and that’s one thing I stole from him,” Tom said. “I think he has been a model for a lot of people to follow.”
Know who seems to like Mike even more? Tom’s son. Twelve-year-old Steven Izzo was filling out his bracket before the tournament started, and one morning Tom asked how was it going. He recreated the conversation Thursday.
“I got you getting to Duke, Dad.”
“That’s good. Where are we going from there?”
“I don’t know, Dad. I just don’t know.”
“Steven, I love you. Do it with your head, not your heart. Don’t worry about Mom or Dad.”
Tom described Thursday how it turned out: “The damn kid didn’t do it. He didn’t worry about us at all. He picked Duke, and we move on. He’s a skinny little guy that won’t be eating for a month if we lose this game.
“He’s always liked Mike. Maybe that’s because I’m always talking about him, so maybe it’s my fault.”
Mike said that was a great story, and was impressed that Tom would tell it.
“By the way, his son will be sitting on our bench, and has a scholarship to Duke.”
Take some time during March Madness this year to reflect on your own Leadership Style, draw inspiration from those coaches working their way to the top of the bracket. You’ll see great coaches and great leaders, motivating their team mates both on the bench and on the court, bringing out the potential in everyone on the team.
Those are Leadership Lessons we can all learn!
Carey Lohrenz is the author of the Wall Street Journal Best Seller “Fearless Leadership: High-Performance Lessons from the Flight Deck.”, a motivational speaker and leadership expert.
Carey has flown missions worldwide as a combat-mission-ready United States Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot. Her extensive experience operating in one of the world’s most challenging environments, an aircraft carrier, and her unique position as one of the first female combat pilots make her the perfect opening or closing inspirational keynote speaker for your corporate meeting or conference.
Carey graduated from the University of Wisconsin where she was a varsity rower, also training at the Pre-Olympic level. After graduation, she attended the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School before starting flight training and her naval career. She is the mother of four kids, and is currently working on her Master’s in Business Administration in Strategic Leadership.