Updated: May 19, 2022
Leadership is hard. The responsibility of leading is a big demand and the current times make it more difficult. The pandemic has burdened everyone to say the least, and the wake of that has left all of us feeling a bit more anxious and looking for the instant answer to somehow make up the past two years overnight. Lately, there have been more horror stories of poor leadership than ever, whether that's from coaches, managers or bosses both in athletics or the workplace. So, I want to share 6 crucial rules for leadership that I've picked up along the way that I believe will help not only lead your team, but also help you all lean in during the tough times. These are from the many books and articles I've read, my experience as a teacher, coach and parent and observations of a few great leaders I've been lucky enough to be around:
Serve your program.
The first one is simple. Servanthood is a key to leadership. Your position as a leader does not place you above the program, nor make you exempt from mistakes or accountability. If you want your team to serve your program principles, then you need to live it everyday. Leaders of a team are required to serve the people in their care, the program and the culture, not dictate them. The best coach of all time, Bill Belichick, claims the winning ways of the Patriots dynasty come from service: "The team has to come first even though we all have individual goals and preferences." Serve your program. If it starts with the leaders, it will enhance work ethic, camaraderie, trust and will ultimately yield the desired results.
2. Leaders Eat Last.
"Leaders Eat Last" is the title of a book by Simon Sinek about his interpretation of the culture within the Marine Corps. The literal meaning comes from the senior Marines in the chow hall eating after all of the junior Marines everyday. The metaphor is this - Great leaders sacrifice for their people, and eating last in the chow hall mirrors their decisions on the battlefield. The needs of the people on your team always come before yours, not just when it's convenient or easy. Serving your program takes precedence over serving yourself in every situation, especially the biggest ones.
Often times, being a great communicator is misconstrued as being able to talk and always having the answer, but that's only a small part of it. The best leaders listen to their people - their complaints, critiques and feedback and never take it personally. Give them the time, listen to them and them help find solutions to enhance the team. It will create an environment dedicated towards achieving our first two rules, servanthood and selflessness.
4. Value your people.
Relationships are another key. If you want your team to run through the proverbial wall for you, you have to do the same for them. It doesn't happen because you tell them to, or because they're scared of you, it happens because they know you care. Motivation is a funny thing. It's not always a ra-ra speech. It can be, but it's more about the day to day relationships. If you care about your people and you value them appropriately, they will respond when you are demanding of them embodying program culture, principles and an unrivaled work ethic. Empowerment, not fear, is the true motivational technique of a leader getting their team to reach its full potential.
5. Build Trust Everyday.
Trust is the foundation of functional team work. Leaders have to build it amongst team members on and off the court, field or workplace. Live up to your word, be honest, be reliable, have the difficult conversations, hold people accountable and face adversity head on. Be trustworthy and eliminate politics and speculation. Anything other than this allows toxicity and mistrust to creep in, which kills teams and the potential to be successful. Being open and vulnerable with your team builds trust and creates a functional atmosphere. Just remember, the person is more important than the player or the employee. Tap into that to unleash full potential.
6. Set the standard high. Don't accept anything less.
Set the standard ridiculously high. Push your team to be uncomfortable. Demand more from them, even when they think they've reached their max - they always have more to give and don't ever think otherwise. This is the culmination of our 6 leadership rules because setting a high standard and having your team respond positively requires a foundation of servanthood, sacrifice, communication empowerment and trust. You can't expect your team to "dig deep", "run through a wall" or find a way to win if these principles are just words that the leaders don't execute.
We live in a world today where we can adopt the label of a "Leader" instantly. LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter pages are littered with leadership titles. The "everybody gets a trophy" era is in full effect. But typing a leadership label in a social media bio doesn't mean you're a leader. These 6 simple rules can help you start building true leadership skills and prepare your team to work together, battle adversity and ultimately put you all on the path towards success.