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USA Basketball Women's National Team

5 Steps to Being a Great Leader

  • Author:
    By Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS
  • Date:
    May 31, 2016

In addition to always finding new exercises, drills, and training techniques, a good portion of my professional development is focused on leadership. I have dozens and dozens of books, have binders full of notes and handouts, and read several weekly blogs all focused on the topic of effective leadership. I have been fascinated by the qualities that make great leaders for as long as I can remember. And continuing to improve my own leadership skill set is one of my top priorities.

I truly believe there is a tremendous lack of leadership in today's game; specifically with today's youth. Basketball is a team game that thrives on leadership; from both the coaches and players.

You can't underestimate the power of a great leader. Great leaders make the impossible seem possible.

Some folks think leaders are born; some think they are developed. I happen to think it is a little bit of both. Regardless, I am confident anyone can work to improve to their leadership skill set. The traits needed to be a successful leader apply to both players and coaches at every level. If the coach is the only leader in the gym; that team won't be very successful.

Here are five traits that contribute to effective leadership:

Learn From Your Mistakes

To be a good leader you have to take calculated risks and you will certainly make some mistakes along the way. Admit them. Learn from them. Don't repeat them! These mistakes can be in the classroom or on the court.

"Success comes from good decisions. Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions."

Lead by Example

The old adage "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't fly in today's world. If you expect it from the people you are leading, you have to expect it from yourself. You must hold yourself accountable before you can hold anyone else. If you expect your players or teammates to be on time, then you need to be on time. If you expect them to know every play in your playbook, then you need to know them too. If you want to be a leader, people notice.

"Do what has to be done. Do it when it has to be done. Do it as well as you can. Do it this way all of the time."

Put Others' Needs First

Compassion and empathy are extremely important to quality leadership. It is impossible to be selfish and be an effective leader. If you are a player, are you playing for the scoreboard or the scorebook? Are you playing for the name on the front of the jersey or the back? If you are a coach, do you listen to your players' feedback and thoughts? Treat your teammates and players right and genuinely care about them.

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

Have Confidence

Your attitude is something you have complete control of and will influence everything you do in life. A positive attitude helps build confidence. You must have a strong self-worth and be confident in your abilities, without being arrogant or cocky. It sounds corny, but you have to feel good about yourself to be a good leader. No one is going to follow someone who doesn't believe in themselves. Confidence comes from a sound work ethic and from being prepared. If you are going into a game and aren't confident you can win; it's because you know you didn't do what was necessary to prepare!

"Don't ever take a shot you aren't confident you are going to make."

Set a High Standard

If you do everything to the best of your ability, then you can expect it from those you lead. If you are always on time, always work hard, and always put your heart and soul into every practice, workout, and game--then you can expect your teammates and players to do the same. But you have to believe your teammates and players can meet this standard. A good leader will motivate those they are leading to do so. You want to be the type of leader who raises the level of everyone around you. Set the bar high and then lead them to it!

"It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it."

These are just some of the traits needed to be an effective leader. Whether you are the point guard on a high school basketball team or an assistant college coach, your ability to be an effective leader will dictate your success as well as your team's success.

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