Muhammad Ali may be better known for his brashness, but if you step back and take a look at him from a leadership perspective then there are some valuable lessons to be learned. Ali once said that, “it isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” By setting your organization up to take care of the details, you will put your team in a place to succeed and thrive under an open structure. This allows for all to grow while taking in the entire process. Most toxic organizations only take a look at the results and however you get there does not matter. This sets you up for short-term gains. How will you be able to replicate the process if you are not taking care of the details? By setting up your group for the long haul, you will see both short and long-term gains with a health ecosystem to continue to thrive. The man formerly known as Cassius Clay fought in 61 fights, posting a 56-5 record along the way. He planned for each fight as though it were going to go the distance. This meant training for a bout that could have gone as long as 15 rounds. You can train your organization to do the same.
Muhammad Ali is arguably the best boxers of all time, but he may have been an even better example of great leadership. Ali was a man that spoke his mind and was ready to take on the consequences. That is something that leaders could utilize to their advantage. I am not saying that you should not think before you speak, but it is helpful to be as honest to your followers as possible. Ali was quoted as saying, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Using this mentality when you lead will help you connect with your organization and get the most out of them. The first rule of leadership should be to do what is best for the group first. Serving your group will set an example for how the organization will be run.
Much like a Kris Jenkins jump shot, the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament provided examples in leadership that can help carry an organization to championship levels. The first item that struck me was the power of counseling as a committee. Sally Helgesen noted in her leadership book, “Web of Inclusion,” that an organization can become stronger by including multiple view points and the web of inclusion provides a means for individuals to affect their organizations, even transforming them when circumstances demand it. According to NCAA.com “each member of the Division I men’s basketball committee evaluates a vast amount of information during selection process. Their opinions — developed through observations, discussions with coaches, directors of athletics and commissioners, and review and comparison of data — ultimately determine selections, seeding and bracketing.”
Terry Cooper suggested in his book “The Responsible Administrator” that looking beyond the obvious choices and challenging ourselves to look more thoroughly through all options. These challenges keep us from limiting ourselves and overlooking the best options. As a committee, the selectors poured through all available information to make the best decisions on what teams should make the tournament and what their seeds should be. By providing a wealth of information to virtually anyone who knows how to use it, this serves to redistribute mastery in an organization.
Another lesson that can be taken from the tournament is the power of sharing the load. Ryan Arcidiacono was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, but his most important decision was to pass the ball. With time-winding down, “Arch” found Jenkins for a three point shot that will go down in tournament lore. Jenkins’s shot as time expired was the first buzzer-beating, three-point, championship shot in the history of the NCAA tournament
history. It also displayed how teamwork and sharing responsibilities as a team can lead to crowning achievements.
Speaking to the media about the game-winning play set up by Arcidiacono, Jenkins said, “for him to be so unselfish and give up the ball, you know, it just shows what type of teammate he is, what type of person he is.” In any organization, you are all teammates and unselfishness will take you to championship heights as well. Selfishness has derailed many an organization, but the selflessness displayed by the Villanova Wildats is something that all organizations can learn from. As Jenkins told the New York Times, “Arch was supposed to shoot it because he’s a senior and that’s what seniors do when the final game’s on the line,” Jenkins said. “But he gave it to me, and I really can’t believe it. It just shows what kind of person he is. All my teammates do a great job in giving me confidence. We don’t care who gets the credit, don’t care who shines. We all just want to win.” It is not always about the top leadership taking all of the shots. If you have placed your group in their best positions then the desired results will materialize and it will not truly matter who gets credit. Sometimes you have to hand the ball off to give the person with the better angle a shot and meeting your goals.
Sports are about more than just wins and losses. Athletic competition can bring out the best in people beyond physical accomplishment. The World of Sports provides some great examples of leadership. This blog is dedicated to showcasing more than just the x’s and o’s of sports. We will take a look at how coaches, captains and other organizational leaders go about motivating, encouraging, and leading their teams because great leadership is always in style.