We have all heard the adage leaders are born, not made. In the case of leadership, it does help a bit to be born with particular character or personality traits. But just like it helps to be born with money, you don't have to be born with money in order to become wealthy. So it is with leadership.
A few weeks ago I, along with many people, witnessed a lesson in leadership as we excitedly watched the men's college basketball tournament - March Madness. The teams who had made it to the final group did not include The Rams from the large, urban Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. They were later selected for a slot. No one expected the outcry from sports analysts and others in the media who criticized their selection, publicly stating "they did not deserve to be there."
For many coaches and players, this kind of negative publicity would have been daunting, but not Coach Shaka Smart and his players. They used it as a motivating factor! This takes special leadership. In my opinion there are some leadership skills that are a must in order to be a good leader: visionary, integrity, competency, inspiration and communication.
Drawing upon his life, school and work experiences we saw Coach Smart exemplify these characteristics. His team remained cohesive and focused as they concentrated on using their talents. He "walked the walk" for his players showing them by example. His ability to visualize the team on the national stage, even when many people saw it as an impossible dream, was infectious. He saw the whole picture and did not allow obstacles or resistance to impede the direction in which to take the team. He made sure the team was competent both academically and on the court. Very close in age to his players, he related to their interests, many of which were similar or the same as his. As a result he was able to connect in a meaningful way.
He shared his vision with the team which gave them the desire to follow their leader. The team remained motivated because the coach continued to be positive even in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. They were involved in the process and were provided with the support the team needed.
In essence, a good leader has the ability to motivate a group toward a common goal. Coach Smart did this well. The Rams made it to the Final Four - from the original sixty four. Although they did not make it as one of the final teams to play for the championship, the lessons they learned along the way will have positive impacts on these young men for the rest of their lives. They saw how to win and how to lose gracefully. It is not always the winning that has the greatest lesson but how you play the game.
Causes Lillian Lambert Supports
American Cancer Society, American Heart Assn, Howard Universit, Impact 100 of Richmond