A few years back, my husband turned his passion for basketball into an opportunity to coach a high school girls’ basketball team. Although he had the practical knowledge and mechanics of the game, the skeptical group of girls didn’t automatically follow him. Yes, they enjoyed hearing his lively stories of the glory days as a high school basketball star but to them that was ancient history. Some of them saw that encouraging father or cool big brother they never had, but that still wasn’t enough for them to follow him. Have you ever been in a situation where you know you’re the right leader for the job, but the team couldn’t see it? That’s what my husband experienced that first season with the Lady Bulldogs.
As the second season progressed, so did his relationship with the girls; those girls became part of our extended family. I watched them go from doubting whether they could win one game in the first season to having a 18-2 season headed into the play-offs in the second season. The Lady Bulldogs went on to ultimately win the city championship game against a competitive rival. I saw their personal aspirations change as well, and they began to see themselves as winners off the court too. I remember asking my husband, “What changed?” His response was simple, “It was good leadership.” The girls weren’t following a former high school basketball star anymore, now they were following a leader.
It takes a leader to communicate in a way that connects to the hearts of people, and my husband learned to do just that. If people aren’t following you, take a look in the mirror first. Are you a leader they can follow? If so, what’s your evidence? I love how John C. Maxwell says, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” It starts with you.
A leader they can follow is…
1. Trustworthy. Are you a person of integrity? Think of all the great leaders you admire. Without much thought, I’ll bet you can say they are all men or women of high moral caliber. People need to believe in their leader. They need know that you are reliable, and you do what you say.
2. Visionary. Can you see the journey? As a leader, you must see farther than the people following you. A leader paints the big picture in such a way that those following can see themselves in it. For my husband, this was painting the championship picture. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee success, but it provides direction and ignites the passion to move forward. If people can see it, then they can believe it’s possible.
3. Agile. Do you know how to make adjustments? The Lady Bulldogs had a better second season, because adjustments were made after the first season. Leaders know what their team members are capable of achieving, and make the necessary adjustments to make it possible. For my husband, those adjustments were not only in how they practiced and who played what position but creating a champion mindset.
4. Learner. What have you learned about your past failures to help you succeed today? Leaders are constantly developing their skills. For leaders, the learning process doesn’t stop when you reach one plateau of success. There is always room for more. That first season the Lady Bulldogs lost 50% of their games. This was better than the previous season, but it wasn’t the best they could do. Spending the time to dig a little deeper into the losses helped my husband understand what was needed for them to win, including changes he had to make as their leader.
5. Knowledge. Do you know what’s needed? Leaders know their stuff. They have a level of expertise that gives the team confidence in their abilities. As a leader, you have to do your homework. Do you know your team’s strengths? What about their weaknesses? Your knowledge becomes the right to entry. My husband knew the game and how to win, without it he could not have offered direction to his team.
If you’re having difficulties as a leader, do a self-check. Are you exhibiting the qualities of a leader that they can follow? If you can’t check off all the leadership qualities above, then it’s time to make some changes.