The introduction to my new book Entitled To Nothing, which you can find soon at entitledtonothingbook.com
ENTITLED TO NOTHING: AN UNCOMMON APPROACH TO LEADERSHIP
On the day I was introduced as the head basketball coach at Rhode Island College in September of 2005, I walked up the steps of the Murray Center headed toward my press conference. I was stopped by a student who introduced himself as Kevin Payette, a senior on the basketball team. School had already been in session for two weeks when I was hired, so the team had returned to school without a head coach.
KP handed me a calendar and said “This is our schedule for work‐ outs, lifting and conditioning. Good luck at the press conference, I look forward to talking to you afterwards.” I thanked him and walked into the building pretty impressed. The players had been running the program on their own in the absence of a head coach. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just met my first captain.
That day, when I became a head coach for the first time, was also the day I started a master class in leadership development. Like most assistant coaches I had prepared diligently for that moment. I had all the ideas about how we were going to play, what we were going to run on offense, how we would attack on defense and all of the tactical moves I would use to win basketball games. What I didn’t know was that all of it would add up to maybe 25% of my job as a head coach. The majority of my focus would be leadership. It would be learning how to get a group of people aligned to critical behaviors that led to successful outcomes. Coaching was more about leadership than I had realized.
I knew that leadership was important. I had grown up as the captain of most of the teams I played on and I started coaching when I was a junior in college. All good teams needed effective leadership. But I had never actually studied leadership, I just figured you either had it or you didn’t. I took it for granted, as if it was this organic mindset that took over within a team. I never recognized the impact it had on success, or the fact that it could be taught and developed. I would learn to see leadership as a skill and not a rank.
Every day I spent building the program at Rhode Island College was a day in a leadership classroom. I learned that culture – the behavior that resulted from a shared set of beliefs – was the key to success, and the environment I created was the most important part of my job. Our culture was built entirely on our process, the commitment we made to what we did each day, independent of the result. While I originally provided the direction as the head coach, as we learned what it took to sustain success, I understood our players needed to own the process and the results. The culture had to be theirs, not mine.
When I became a head coach, I thought my job was basketball. I learned quickly it was actually to lead, and basketball was simply the teaching tool. My arena happened to have two baskets and a score‐ board. Your arena may be an executive boardroom, a classroom, a conference center or a factory. While the context of our situations might be different, the lessons learned are universal and can be applied to any organization. It is a foundation for success in any walk of life.
This is the story of an uncommon approach to leadership.