Want to be a Great Leader? Learn from World Champion Coaches

Everyone loves to study and emulate successful leaders who have demonstrated the ability to win in their respective field. We particularly love picking up knowledge from leaders in the world of sports. Their expertise in coaching, leading people and running a team can easily be translated into business tactics.

Alan Stein Jr. shared this on the Follow My Lead Podcast as to why sports and business go so well together: “Both require similar things in order to be successful; building habits and doing thing during unseen hours, effective leadership, and ‘we’ people instead of ‘me’ people.”

One of the best parts of following sports leaders is every year there are new stories and victors to learn from and emulate. Here are seven leadership lessons from Bill Belichick and six other coaches who won championships in 2017:

1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)

Belichick and his Patriots team capped off a miraculous comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in the second half to win his fifth Lombardi trophy and cement his status as one of the most the elite coaches of all time.

Known for his hard-nosed and buttoned-up leadership style, Belichick rarely gives one on one interviews. But in a sit down with Suzy Welch he shared this:

“Leadership means building a team that is exhaustively prepared, but being able to adjust in an instant.” He went on to say, “The only sign we have in the locker room is from the Art of War, ‘every battle is won before it’s faught'”

Key Takeaway: Preparation is critical for success; but, in today’s fast paced world, pivoting will be required and it’s only possible with great teamwork.

2. Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)

Kerr’s team battled the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, and beat them four games to one in this year’s NBA finals. Not only did he win his second NBA championship as a coach, but he also holds the highest winning percentage in NBA history.

His leadership style is one of a true servant leader. After this year’s title he tried to avoid the microphone in order to give his players the chance to be in the spotlight. When he he did finally speak, he used all of his time to give praise to his other coaches, players, and team ownership. Kerr knows he is just a spoke in the wheel, and it’s his job to push those around him to levels of which they didn’t even know they were capable.

Key Takeaway: It’s not about the leader, it’s about the team.

3. Joe Madden (Chicago Cubs)

Madden and his Cubs broke a 108 year world championship drought when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the last year’s World Series.

His leadership style is known for being quirky and unique, but there are great lessons to learn from Madden. His team didn’t shy away from the expectations of them from the beginning of the season. They used terms like “Embrace the target” (world champions) and “Try not to suck.”

Key takeaway: Don’t shy away from high expectations, embrace them.

4. Dabo Swinney (Clemson Tigers)

Swinney and his Clemson Tigers team won the school’s first football national Championship since 1981, defeating the mighty Nick Saban led Alabama Crimson Tide in one of the greatest football games ever.

His leadership style is one filled with purpose and positivity. He embodies the idea of a Welder leader by consistently leveraging both love and discipline at extremely high levels. In his post game interview right after winning the championship he said, “I told our players, the difference in this game was going to be love (for each other).”

Key Takeaway: Serve your people’s hearts and not their talents.

5. Mike Sullivan (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Sullivan and his Pittsburgh Penguins successfully defended their Stanley Cup by defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of this years finals.

His leadership style is one of great intensity and focus. He relies heavily on his staff and the players on the team to be leaders themselves. After a big win in the playoffs Sullivan said, “I think when we have focus–short-sighted focus on the task at hand, and we don’t get ahead of ourselves or we don’t dwell on what happen in the past–that’s when you have the best ability to reset that mindset, it always falls back to the leadership of the group.”

Key takeaway: If you are the only leader on your team you have no chance.

6. Dawn Staley (South Carolina Gamecocks)

Staley and her South Carolina Gamecocks won their first national basketball title by defeating Mississippi State in dominating fashion.

Staley was a Hall of Fame player before she became a coach. She knows how important the connection with people is to the success of any leader. She lives by two mottos: ‘a disciplined person can do anything’ and ‘dare tocubs do what you don’t want to do to get what you want.’ In a recent article from players tribune she said this about the secret to leadership: “If there were ever a secret to being a great coach, that’s it: the connection.”

Key takeaway: You are nothing as a leader without healthy relationships.

7. Roy WIlliams (North Carolina Tarheels)

Williams is a basketball coaching legend. Having gone to six national title games and winning his third last year in dramatic fashion against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, his name is synonymous with success on the court.

Williams is also known for being an elite recruiter, which is why he has been in the postseason every year of his head coaching career outside of his first. Williams plays to his strength and spends a lot of time recruiting, but he doesn’t for a second underestimate the importance of character. He wrote, “Too many coaches lower their program’s standards and take talented players with questionable or poor character.”

Key Takeaway: Character matters and it always will.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My LeadPodcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.

3 Brilliant Leadership Lessons from the Best Coach in College Football

It was 2008, and Clemson football was in a precarious position. In 30 years, they had gone from a powerhouse college football program to average at best. No matter what they tried, the team just couldn’t seem to make the leap back into national title contention. Finally, Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips made a high-pressure decision to accept the resignation of well-known coach Tommy Bowden, and promote an internal assistant coach named Dabo Swinney. While Dabo Swinney had no previous head coaching experience, he was well-liked by the current Clemson team and a man of deep character and conviction.

Fast-forward 7 years; Dabo is not only one of the best football coaches in the country, he is a fantastic example of what leadership is all about. Here are three brilliant leadership lessons we can all take away from Coach Swinney.

1. Everyone is Accountable

Last year Swinney made national news by suspending one of his best players, Deon Cain for breaking team rules. The suspension occurred days prior to the game that would secure Clemson’s spot in the national championship. Cain’s participation in the game was crucial; however, Dabo did not let that affect the decision to do what was right.

 “Deon Cain is supposed to be back tomorrow when classes start, but he won’t be with us, in Arizona for the title game, he’s got to grow up,” Swinney said. “He’s got to make a decision to be a great player at Clemson. But if you are going to be a great player at Clemson then you have to follow the rules. It’s just that simple. Otherwise, you have to go somewhere else, so he will figure that out. I hope he will be back tomorrow and get ready for next year and will make the decision that this thing is not about him.”

Happy to report Deon Cain has decided to rejoin the team this coming year and has made the commitment for it to not be about him.  Associated Press Update.

2. Be a Servant Leader

Peter Economy said it best, “The idea of servant leadership is that the typical hierarchy where employees are supposed to serve their bosses is turned upside down. Instead, leaders serve their people.”

All servant leaders share two fundamental beliefs about the people they lead:

  1. Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect.
  2. People can accomplish much more when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.

Referring to Cain’s future as a Clemson football player and being an example of a servant leader, Dabo said,

“My job is just to help him grow as a great person and man and that’s what I am trying to do. That’s my number one job to develop these guys into men. It doesn’t matter the type of talent they have, I am here to serve their heart, not their talent. That’s all I am trying to do with Deon.”

3. Build Great Relationships

As you’ll recall, one of the things that got Dabo hired was the existing rapport he had with the Clemson players. In order to effectively lead, one must first build great relationships with his or her team members, and then work on keeping those relationships strong.

“Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” Dabo Swinney.

Leaders have to have good relationships with their people while also maintaining who they are on inside.

There are a lot of things that need to come together in order for a college football team to go undefeated for an entire season, and then go on to play in a national championship. Talent and physical strength are required, and Clemson had that in its players. But without an exceptional leader like Dabo Swinney to mold those players into a team, a successful season was far from guaranteed.

Learn from Dabo; as a coach, a leader and a man of character and conviction. Face your professional and personal life with a positive yet realistic outlook, and take extra time to focus and expand your relationships, in and out of the office. Get your team’s equivalent of a 14 and 0 season and runner up in the national title game.

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