|03-02-2007, 03:40 PM||#1|
Be the ball
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Mason, OH
Article on NBA leadership
I saw this article by Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post on leadership on an NBA teams I thought it had good insights as to what *really* works for leadership on a pro team.
I thought it might lead to discussions about who on the Reds are leaders.
(mods feel free to move)
Ship Missed Its Leader
By Sally Jenkins
Friday, March 2, 2007; Page E01
The behavior of the Washington Wizards with and without Antawn Jamison is a clinical study in leadership: How does an organization respond to it, and what happens in its absence? With Jamison, the Wizards had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Without him, they have bickered and lost eight of 12 games. Junior executives across America pore through 10-step books on how to be a leader, but they could learn as much by taking a few notes from Jamison, and studying how his teammates respond when he returns, mercifully, to the team.
Jamison is not the Wizards's biggest scorer, nor is he their boldest personality. That would be Gilbert Arenas. Which demonstrates that, contrary to some popular assumptions, the most charismatic person in the room is not always the best leader. Jamison's chief attribute is not charisma but something more indefinable; it's authority. He's a guy who brings a solid 19 points and eight rebounds a game, night in and night out, who is more sound than brilliant, and who doesn't always have the ball in his hands. Yet when he is on the floor, his teammates do something that they seem unable to do without him: They believe.
Until Jamison sprained his knee at the end of January, it was not especially obvious what a difference-maker he was for the Wizards. But the effect of his month-long absence has been undeniable. Without him on the floor, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have quarreled, Arenas suddenly can't make a shot and Coach Eddie Jordan has not been nearly as persuasive in his pleas to play defense. It's clear Jamison is their equilibrium. Every member of the organization will be relieved to have him on the floor against Atlanta tonight, because what Jamison understands about leadership is that it's a matter of "just the little things you do, that could help glue the situation together," as he puts it.
Jamison learned to lead through experience. He played for a hopeless loser in Golden State, and for a hopeful winner in Dallas, and he was smart enough to figure out what made the difference. In Dallas, he watched Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley build the team with quiet collaboration, and he kept his mouth shut and followed their example. He learned that leaders are positive, not negative, they foster confidence and cooperation in others, not insecurity, and they don't make the whole organization about themselves. When he was relegated to the bench, he didn't whine. Instead, he won the NBA's sixth man award.
That performance convinced Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld that Jamison could help lay the foundation for a rebuilt franchise. He traded away Jerry Stackhouse and half the store for him, and knew exactly what he was getting. "He's a true professional, he sacrifices for the benefit of the team and does whatever is necessary," Grunfeld says. "He's never late, he always does things the right way. He's great for us."
Real experts on leadership, as opposed to charlatans, understand that leaders come in many different forms and have no set personality. Rather, they simply have a talent for subtle influence. "We have quiet leaders who don't have to make great pronouncements, but people know that they're there," says Col. Chuck Allen, director of leader development for the Command, Leadership and Management program at the U.S. Army War College. "Most leaders don't have to be the smartest person or most forceful, but they somehow bring a calmness and process. They bring meaning to the organization and to people."
Real leadership experts also understand that qualities often preached as leader-ly, such as perseverance, determination, singlemindedness of purpose, and charisma, can actually result in poor leadership. "Those sound like good traits when good things happen," Allen says. "They can also lead people to a very bad place. We know people with those traits have led us into situations that were not good outcomes for ourselves or for society."
Such as? "Well, Hitler," he says.
An intriguing suggestion of just how influential Jamison's leadership can be is that Arenas hasn't been nearly as good without him. He has made only 19 of 101 three-point attempts since a Jan. 31 loss at Toronto, the team's first game without Jamison. Arenas's shooting has suffered for a variety of concrete reasons like fatigue from playing extended minutes, and pressure to carry the team. But Arenas may also be suffering from a loss of self-assurance without Jamison's steadying presence on the floor.
According to Allen, members of a unit look to the leader for guidance on how to feel. He loans them "a presence of mind, a calmness. People look to him to see what's happening." How the leader handles points of stress is crucial to overall performance. "If he's not frazzled then they're not frazzled," Allen says. "It comes from very subtle cues, nonverbal things. If they know him well enough, he can provide that sense of guidance and influence without saying anything."
When Jamison does say something, he says it firmly. Two weeks ago, the team seemed to be in emotional chaos after Thomas and Haywood publicly attacked each other, and Arenas ludicrously blamed Jordan for his shooting woes because he stressed defense in practice. At a players-only meeting, Jamison corrected some attitudes, and enforced respect for the head coach, and each other.
"We weren't playing like what we set out to be," Jamison says of the meeting. "On the court, you have injuries, and that changes things, but off the court, I don't care who's playing or who's in street clothes, there's a certain way you carry yourself. And we were definitely upset with the way both things were going at that particular time. I don't care if I was playing or not, there wasn't any energy, there weren't guys playing at 110 percent. . . . There's a certain way you talk to the media, and amongst your teammates. And those are the things we really addressed."
A secret to Jamison's leadership style is that he managed to confront his teammates without embarrassing them. He doesn't jump in his teammates' faces, or make a spectacle of ticking them off. He treats his position on the team as an appointed one. "You don't have to be negative all the time or really so demanding in what you say," he says. "Sometimes you might think leadership is being fiery, but sometimes that backfires and it comes out in a negative way." As a result, Jamison's teammates don't question his intentions, or his allegiance and fidelity. "He's just a guy everyone loves playing with, and can't wait to have back on the court," says Caron Butler.
Jamison knows when to back off and keep his mouth shut. For instance, it has been difficult for him to lead while sitting on the bench in street clothes. He suspects that his teammates won't accept leadership from him if all he has to offer are mere words. The main component to his leadership is a credibility earned on the court. "There are only certain things you can say," Jamison observes, "because you're not out there. You're not being pushed, you're not going through screens and things like that. You're sitting there in a suit, watching it, and you know you can help, but there are only certain things you can say about the situation."
To his relief, after a month on the bench, Jamison will be able to lead the way that he knows best: by example. Ultimately, says Grunfeld: "You lead with your actions. You lead with what you do. And he always does the right thing."
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."