Leadership is fundamentally about moving agendas and sustaining momentum. It’s about vision and pragmatism. It’s about the capacity to grab opportunities while maximizing gain. It’s, as we argue on this blog, not about drama and not about charisma, it’s about the nuts and bolts of execution.
The recent NBA lockout can teach us six lessons about how to better lead and pursue your agenda while negotiating with another party.
1. Know where they’re coming from. Make sure you know the resistance points of the other side. Neither side understood how far the other side was willing to go.
2. Don’t throw pebbles into the pond. Stern didn’t need to add fuel to the fire by delegitimizing the union (He’s quoted as saying: “The union decided in its infinite wisdom that the proposal would not be presented to membership [for a vote].”) Insults only intensify short-term resistance.
3. Remember coalitions die and rarely get resurrected. Billy Hunter didn’t make the long-term implications clear to players. There might not be any more games (or paychecks) for a long time to come.
4. Keep your eye on the prize. Once you have an agreement, don’t get distracted by ‘system issues’ and red-tape details.
5. Lock yourself into finding a solution before you find yourself locked out. The NFL was able to avoid a lockout by staying focused on the core issues and taking the time to stay at the table.
6. Lay off the drama. Negotiations don’t end, like David Stern claimed, in a “nuclear winter.”
In the final analysis, leadership is about your capacity to move things ahead and create change while understanding that your leadership position demands you deal with minutia, but don’t get trapped by the little minuets between you and those you are negotiating with. It’s about your political and managerial competence.
Leadership is about making sure that when you charge ahead you don’t take them over the cliff.