Having leadership positions over the past 15+ years and being a huge sports fanatic, coaches have the single most influence on a team’s outlook. Since coaches are leaders, they have the ability to bring out the best in people’s performance and character. It is a privilege to lead people and “with great power comes great responsibility.” As a leader, focus more on the “we” than the “me” and you’ll accomplish great things together.
Rarely do I use a negative example to illustrate my point, but in this case you can learn how to lead by doing the opposite of Mike D’Antoni.
Currently (unfortunately) he is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and from the perspective of a die hard fan, this is the most underwhelming season I’ve ever witnessed.
Using him as an example, here are 5 ways to become a better leader by avoiding his mistakes:
1) Lack of direction – In sports, I’ve never seen someone change their lineups as much as Mike D’Antoni. One game a player will start the game and the next game he never plays at all. When roles aren’t clearly defined, people get confused.
Leaders need a clear vision that people can follow. Once the goal has been decided and your team has bought into it, stick with it. Results follow when there is a clear plan. “Without vision, people perish.”
2) Poor relationships – When Mike D’Antoni got hired, one of the first things he did was force his system on the players instead of creating a system around the talent on the team. He rubbed a lot of veteran players the wrong way right off the bat. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t automatically mean people want to follow you.
Leaders build rapport and eventually trust with people by asking them for input and listening to their goals. Engagement is a result of feeling appreciated, valued and heard. Engaged people perform better.
3) Passive-Aggressive – Every chance D’Antoni has to complain to the media he does. He consistently blames his players and drags them under the bus without hesitation. It seems like he’d rather vent about his players than actually talk to them. He deals with conflict by ignoring it.
Leaders communicate directly with the person. Conflict is inevitable and unless confronted, it lingers and builds up. As a leader, be the bigger person and talk about what’s wrong. When you resolve conflict and move on everyone wins.
4) Emotional roller coaster – D’Antoni loves to overreact and blow things out of proportion. He loves to identify problems, but rarely has any solutions. Since he is so moody, it has a negative effect on the team. Players think it’s acceptable to point the finger instead of taking ownership for areas they can improve upon.
Leaders need to be a calming presence. If you want to be a leader, it’s more important that you “show” your team before you “tell” them anything. People observe and follow the leader’s example.
5) Stubborn – D’Antoni has to be the most closed-minded coach around. No matter how many analysts, players or experts point out the flaws in his philosophy, he continues to repeat them expecting different results (that’s called insanity folks). Once you stop learning as a leader, it’s all downhill from there.
Leaders need to be open to suggestions. That doesn’t mean you do what everyone says, it means consider all options, then choose the best one. A humble leader knows there is always more to learn, so he stays flexible and agile, almost re-inventing himself over time.