Be a student of leadership - especially in difficult times.
Why Become a Student of Leadership
My 7th grade basketball coach sat us down one day and said, “You need to become students of the game.” He went on to suggest that we attend other basketball games, watch the varsity teams play, watch basketball on TV, and so forth.
I, of course, had no problem obeying that request. I was a sports junkie when I was young and couldn’t get enough. I followed my coach’s advice and watched college, pro, and as much basketball as I could at all levels.
I found to my surprise that I learned things that gave me a competitive edge. I especially found the commentators, many of whom were former coaches, provided tips that were invaluable.
Al McGuire, former head coach at Marquette University, was one of my favorite commentators. I remember he would explain that a good shooter has a soft touch. He suggested that someone with a nice soft touch should aim for the front of the rim, especially on free throws. He explained that a soft touch causes the ball to bounce nicely on the rim and gives it a great chance to go in. I found great success in my basketball life with that piece of advice. In fact, all of the ideas McGuire suggested were important to my game.
I learned that the principle of being a student applies to other things as well, particularly to leadership. There are important leadership lessons all around us - all we have to do is to observe and pay attention. For example, in books we read, plays we watch, movies we see, sports we consume, even in great musical performances, we can find lessons that expose critical leadership experiences.
from The Horse and His Boy
One of my favorite book lessons on leadership comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy.
“For this is what it means to be a king: To be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
I find this particular lesson invaluable. Most good leaders are called to lead their teams through difficult times. If the leader is observed as being sad, concerned, unhappy, or depressed, others will wonder what is wrong and the organization may be filled with a sense of impeding doom.
Good leaders put on a brave face during difficult times.
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