How to be a leader
Ok, before I begin, I must say a few things. You should not plan on being a leader on your team if you are lazy, do not put in extra work, or are a selfish individual. Your teammates just wont listen and anything you say will not carry any weight. Why should anyone follow you if you do not work and it is all about you?? Now with that said I think there are usually two types of leaders. Those who lead by example and those who lead by example and are also positive communicators. As coaches we love those who lead by example, but we really love those who lead by example and can also be positive communicators. Communication is a key ingredient to a team’s success, and those teams that have leaders who are hard workers but can also communicate in a positive way with their teammates often have the highest levels of success.
You probably noticed that I used the words positive communication. I think it is tough to be a leader if your communication is on the negative side and you are always pointing out your teammate’s failures or weaknesses. You must build a level of trust with them and I think that is best started by pointing out positive things. When you see a teammate do something well then that is a perfect time to tell them. “Great screen Dennis” or “Great block out Tim” are just a few brief things to say that can positively influence a teammate to continue to screen or block out. It also let’s your teammate know that you see their effort and appreciate it. Consistent positive communication throughout practice and games by your leaders is a tremendous motivator for teammates. Eventually your leaders may have to get on teammates about their effort, comprehension of concepts, etc. This is easier to do when you have built up some equity with those teammates. If there is a history of positive communication, then your teammate is probably more likely to take any negative feedback in a less combative way. Even negative feedback should end with something positive. “I know you are capable of more, show us” or We need you to win” or “I believe in you” are just some things that can be said at the end of any negative feedback that can re-engage your teammate in a positive way. You also need to communicate with your teammates when you have made a mistake. “My bad, I need to make that shot” or “I was late on my help, it won’t happen again” are just a few examples of something a leader may communicate to their teammates. This allows your teammates to see that you are aware of your own mistakes and are willing to hold yourself accountable.
The best leaders often lead by positive communication but also by their daily example of working hard. It is crucial if you want to be a leader you must be willing to work hard in practice, put in basketball time outside of practice (extra shots, extra weight lifting, etc.) and you also need to put in extra time with your teammates (both on the court and off the court). This also builds equity with your teammates and hopefully motivates them to do more. These extra shots, extra weight room sessions, or extra time off the court with your teammates helps grow your teams’ culture and overall success. It is important to remember what I said at the beginning. If you do not work hard whatever you say to your teammates does not carry much weight. So, you cannot be a talker if you are not a worker.
The last thing I will leave you with is this, if you want to be a leader the team must come first. It is ok to have individual goals. Every player should have individual goals. But it is important to remember if your individual goals are more important to you than the team, then your teammates will eventually see it and may think any leadership you try and give is fake leadership. True leaders can manage their individual goals while put the team goals first. I like to think if the team goals come first and the team has success, then individual goals often are met during the process.
As always, thank you for reading my blog. My thoughts are not absolutes and there are plenty of things I am probably missing or not touching enough on, but my hope is this helps aspiring players to become better teammates and better leaders. Please be safe during this difficult time in our country. We will get through this together!