3 Leadership Lessons from the NCAA Championship Game

Ever heard of Grayson Allen? If you are like me, then you hadn’t until you turned on the TV or radio after last week’s NCAA Championship game. If you have not heard yet, he is a freshman basketball player at Duke who emerged as a game changer. He was the Cinderella story of the National Championship.

We often look to sports heroes for guidance on leadership. Allen’s season with Duke is no exception and provides several leadership lessons that may be helpful to us. So what can we learn about leadership from Allen’s performance during the game?

  1. Leadership is not about position. Allen demonstrated this adage fully. He was a freshman, as were three Duke starters who are credited with carrying the team all season. According to news reports, Allen only played in a handful of games this year. But in the 21 minutes he played against Wisconsin, he helped carry his teammates to victory. Whether you are the leader on the org chart or not, how can you use your skills and abilities to advance your team? Are you letting your title hold you back from leading? Conversely, with four freshmen leading like that, seniors sat on the sidelines. Even if you are in a position of leadership, are you really leading? While we may not have game tape to watch or sports analysts critiquing our performance, we can collect feedback from our colleagues to determine how well we are exercising our leadership skills to better our organizations.
  2. Leadership is unpredictable. According to Yahoo Sports, Allen spent much of the season feeling more of a spectator than a teammate. Despite that, his teammates called him a “pain” for pushing them so hard in practice and spending additional hours outside of practice in the gym. Allen assumed his time for this year had passed. Whether we’ve been passed up for a promotion or just felt like we are the spectator on our team, there is something to be said for continuing to work hard and demonstrate our ability to lead.
  3. Leaders don’t always make everyone happy. Allen is quoted in a News Observer article as saying, “…if being hated comes from that (winning national championships), I guess I’ll live with that.” Oftentimes, leaders have to make tough choices and can’t please everyone. As a recovering lobbyist, I remember a legislator asking us during a meeting if all the parties around the table were unhappy. When we responded yes, he said, “Well good. That means this is a good bill.” Whether we make the choice or are affected by the choice, our organizations often benefit from accepting the decision and moving on to the next thing to address.

What did you think of the Championship game? Any other lessons we can apply to our work?

Meredith Benton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Meredith Benton

Erik, Great idea. This week at our office, we are celebrating Nashville’s new baseball stadium. My agency played a role in making it happen. Opening day is Friday so we have a couple of activities at the office going on to show our support and celebrate those involved.