Leadership Madness

Leadership MadnessAlthough admittedly a trite subject, it perhaps can’t hurt to take a look at something that is in the front of many people’s minds this time of year  – March Madness. Although tired and menacing to many, sports is often used as a metaphor in the business world.  So, since we are in the season, please allow me to indulge the moment just briefly and look for leadership lessons as we ponder the recent competition in the NCAA basketball tournaments.

As I observed the games this year, several key factors influenced the results of games and had links to good leadership:

  • The importance of getting a team to play its best, “peak,” at the time when it matters most.  Link to Leadership -> The value of building learning, improvement and collaboration into you and your team’s daily/weekly/etc. processes.
  • The significance of a team’s “bench” and how no matter how good your team is, the result of a game may hinge on the performance of players who don’t start the game.  Link to Leadership -> Always develop backups and give them a chance to perform regularly.
  • Knowing when to call “time out.”  Link to Leadership -> Remember to have enough information about people and projects so that you can recognize when you need to stop and re-group.
  • The power of momentum and how results are influenced by a team’s ability to recognize it, leverage it, start it, build on it, or end it.  Link to Leadership ->  As a leader, remember to watch, pay attention to, and value the emotional and social makeup of yourself as well as your team.

These are just a few of the leadership lessons I’m reminded of as I view the clashes on the hard courts.  What other leadership take-aways do you see reflected in the coaching or play of teams competing in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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2 responses to “Leadership Madness

  1. Kris,

    The coaching in sports metaphor is a big one. How do people learn from a leader’s coaching most effectively? Oversimplified, the options are (and we’ll use a foul shot metaphor to keep it on a basketball thread):
    1. No process, no theory – shooter is given a ball and told to put it in the hoop
    2. Prescribed process, no theory – shooter is given a ball and shown the standard motions for shooting a ball.
    3. No process, theory provided – shooter is given a ball, and the physics of round objects moving through space on an arc is explained.
    4. Prescribed process, theory provided – shooter is given the ball, shown how to shoot, and the physics and trajectory theory is provided.

    Finding the balance around leadership and coaching to optimize learning is a very difficult balance. How much should a leader let their team fail in order to learn? Do some people benefit more from hand-holding than others?

    This is something my organization struggles with every day, being in the leadership development space.

  2. Cricket:

    Eyes on the ball. (Batsman Kapil Dev’s comment: (The ball looked like a football)

    Keep a good line and length while bowling. Consistency is the key.

    Use pads, kidney guards and helmets, whatever, but rise to the challenge. Risk taking needs to be aligned with risk management.

    Benefit of doubt is given to the batsman. Umpires are human too. Play the game, don’t argue the rules until the game is over.

    The game is not over until the last ball is bowled. Hope is eternal. Think strategy even when trailing behind.

    The captain takes responsibility for the team losses and gives credit to the team for its winnings.

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