BLG Leadership Insights Features

6 Leadership Lessons from the NBA Lockout

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.

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Top 10 Basketball Leadership Quotes

With March Madness in the air, I thought it would be a great time to list my 10 favorite basketball leadership quotes. Enjoy and good luck  filling out your bracket!

 1. “The best teams have chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice personal glory for the common goal.” — Dave DeBusschere

2. “Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships.” —Michael Jordan

3. “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” —Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

4. “Whatever a leader does now sets up what he does later. And there’s always a later.” — Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K)

5. “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” — John Wooden

6. “The key is not the “will to win” . . . everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” — Bobby Knight

7.  “No matter what business you’re in, you can’t run in place or someone will pass you by. It doesn’t matter how many games you’ve won.”  — Jimmy Valvano

8. “To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.”  — Pat Reily

9. “What you specifically teach is what your players will do best.” — Dick Bennett

 10. “I think that basketball players should get the job done no matter how it looks on the screen”.  — Oscar Robertson
BLG Leadership Insights

Lebron, Leonidas, and The New York Knicks

The notion of loyalty is central to the construct of the workplace. How much “loyalty” we exhibit towards our organizations and our superiors is often interpreted as an implicit measure of our character. Great leaders and dutiful subordinates are supposed to be with their men until the very end. Our society reveres the images of Captain Edward Smith going down with the Titanic or Leonidas fighting with his unit at Thermopylae in the face of imminent defeat. It is important to note that our societal narrative also praises those who cut bait and move on to bigger and better things.

The NBA season will draw to a close over the next two weeks. The free agency period will follow approximately two weeks later. The free agent class is headlined by Lebron James who many sports pundits consider to be the league’s best player and heir apparent to Michael Jordan. Lebron James, Akron native, drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavilers in 2003 is faced with a choice between legacy and loyalty. Does he stay with his hometown Cavs, who have made every effort to bring in supporting players to help him win a championship, but now lack the salary cap flexibility to improve, or does he bolt to greener pastures of New York?

Winning a title in New York, along with the increased global media attention of playing round ball in the Big Apple, would net Lebron countless additional millions and allow him to achieve his stated desire to be a “global icon”. Sticking with the Cavaliers would afford Lebron the opportunity to finish what he started in his hometown and he would forever be included in the select company of athletes who played their entire careers for one team.

Leaders need to acknowledge that there is polarity present in each team member’s mind. One side is pushing the individual to pursue career advancement and individual prestige above the needs of the team. The other side stresses collaboration and group achievement above self interest. Hopefully, by acknowledging these considerations, we can create better working environments that increase productivity and more importantly reduce employee stress.

Picture Credit: Ryan Fung