Thursday, May 3, 2012

Coach K on Building a team and "internal leadership"

I'm going to briefly depart from my normal approach to the global leadership topic.  I realize this is a global leadership blog and I've cautioned about using sports metaphors.  That said, I believe this transcends sport.  In the attached link to YouTube audio,  Coach Mike Kryzewski(commonly referred to in the US as Coach K) speaks to the Corps of Cadets at West Point about leadership.  For the non-US readers of this blog, Coach K is a West Point graduate, the Duke University basketball coach, coached the USA Olympic basketball team in Beijing in 2008 and will again coach Team USA basketball in the London Olympics this year. Although it appears to be a video it is really a still picture with audio. There are three points about leadership he makes that struck me. One, at the 3:49 point he mentions a former player named MG Bob Brown and MG Brown's point of view that 5% percent of the leadership job is "hitting the target". The other 95% is teaching culture and values. I think this easily translates beyond the military context and what often gets referred to as the "hard stuff"- 5%- and the "soft stuff"- 95%. Stated another way, the "soft stuff is the hard stuff". Two, at the 6:25 mark he talks about how he is building his Team USA basketball team for the Olympics and how he is combining talented older players with talented younger players. If you aren't a USA NBA fan the names won't be familiar to you but the point is he is not just picking the best players.  He is very carefully and thoughtfully picking a team.  In doing so so he is seeking the best combination of talents and personalities.  Third, he states "You will never be really good unless you develop internal leadership, it's not just about you." He goes on to talk about how he is using Chris Paul, who is a very good player, but not the best individual talent to help him develop "internal leadership " on the team. He has singled out Chris Paul to develop as one of his "internal leaders" because of his ability to "relate to everyone".  This is more nuanced that we usually talk about developing leaders for "bench strength" or "position cover for the future".  Coach K is talking about layers of leadership on the same team.  Not a leader and followers but teams full of leaders.  There are really important lessons for leaders developing other leaders in this message, no matter what the context.      


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