“Before I started working with Jim I was ready to quit golf. Now I’m having the time of my life,”
Maslow, Michael Jordan, and the Navy SEALs
Leadership, Teamwork, and Resonance
The difference between champions and near champions is the ability to play for something outside of self.
- Lou Holtz, Hall of Fame football coach
Jim Tressel, head football coach at Ohio State University, took a trip to the little town of Gambier, Ohio. He went to speak with Jim Steen, Kenyon College swim coach. Tressel, who has guided the Buckeyes to five Big Ten championships in eight seasons, sought out Steen, who has won forty-nine national championships (yes, forty-nine). Tressel and Steen have both learned a few things over the years, including how to develop leaders, how to focus on the process of high performance, and, perhaps most of all, how to build a family.
Phil Jackson became head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1989 and inherited the best basketball player in the world. Michael Jordan was great, but the team was not. Jackson instilled the values of compassion and selflessness in a league of egos and false bravado. The Bulls went on to win six NBA championships, and Jackson won three more with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson, Tressel, and Steen are powerful coaches because they are good leaders.
The best leaders see what's possible for the group and empower the group members to reach that level. They know the details of performance extremely well and communicate those details in a way that inspires. Inspiration comes from teaching—great leaders are great teachers. They use their sport or work to convey new ways of seeing the world, including what's possible, along with how to live more fully, love more deeply, and experience life in ways that promote learning and growth. When people have an inspiring vision for the future and are given tools to learn and grow, they will do whatever tasks they face with a higher level of proficiency, as well as with a fierce loyalty.
Leadership is the development of people, influencing them to connect with a vision beyond themselves. Groups and teams whose members work together, pushing and motivating each other to constantly improve, have a unique culture, created from the top. There are certain other things leaders do, beyond the areas of technical expertise and disciplined practice, that make all the difference in the world. In my experience, three habits stand out in the lives and teaching of the greatest coaches and leaders. These men and women all do the following:
- Redefine success
- Connect individuals with a vision beyond themselves
- Seek self-mastery—and help others do the same
The best leaders create a culture that develops people to live fully, experience vividly, and have fun along the way. Through the daily message of their own lives, they set the tone, because they live what they teach. Whether it is teaching athletes or executives, in the field of baseball or business, the basic principles of extraordinary performance are the same. It starts with a leader who, far beyond the Xs and Os of strategy and tactics, studies how to empower and enrich the lives of those he or she leads.