Five traits I’ve found common to the best leaders I have ever coached.
The best leaders have a natural curiosity about the needs of those around them. They have the ability to focus on their own responsibilities, yet remain interested in what is going on with their teammates. It’s not necessarily that they just care more about their teammates than others – although often times this may be the case. It’s a mental capacity to stay interested in the needs of their teammates without affecting what they have to do.
It’s an ability many players don’t possess. They don’t have enough mental capital to focus on their job while also staying curious about their teammates, so they focus on what is most important to them. It’s not a selfish trait. It’s natural to lock in on what you need to do. But great leaders stay genuinely curious about how their teammates are doing. They are interested in them, and consistently think about what they can to to help them.
The best high-performers I have ever been around have this one thing in common, and it goes the same for the best leaders as well. Perspective is a particular attitude or approach towards things that are important to you. You know when you here certain people describe another as someone who “just gets it?” They are talking about perspective.
Perspective allows you to see things through the right frame of mind. It is a balance between the importance of what you are doing and the reality of the impact you can have. Perspective allows you to see things clearly, without getting too high or too low. It allows you to have the right relationship with both success and failure, and to keep moving forward at a high level regardless of which of the two you are dealing with. Great perspective keeps most leaders on balance.
The best leaders I’ve ever coached have a natural way of understanding the personalities around them. They don’t judge teammates based on certain characteristics that may be considered negative, they just realize they have to deal with them. They connect with their teammates by knowing who they are and how to motivate them. It gives them a feel for what to say, what to do, and when it needs to happen.
Learning about the personalities of your team is essential to good leadership, and the best leaders have a natural feel for it. They can see when someone is struggling and they need to get picked up. Or when success is going to a teammates head and they need to be kept grounded. They recognize when a teammate needs to get the ball because he hasn’t touched it in a while, or when someone needs a boost because they were taken out of the starting line up. Great leaders are connected to their teammates on and off the court.
Some of the best leaders I’ve coached were also great players, but they never took themselves too seriously. They never let success get to their head, or their ego to get too big. They stayed grounded, knew exactly what they were good at, and what they weren’t good at.
The great leaders I’ve coached were not insecure about their weaknesses. They were realistic about what they could and couldn’t do so they could find ways to get better. They craved honest feedback and were not afraid of criticism. They also knew the impact that they could have on others, both positively and negatively. They didn’t always lace into guys for not doing things the right way, because they knew it might carry more weight because of who they were. The best leaders I’ve coached understood themselves first.
Presence is probably best described as a combination of all the things that make someone a great leader. Presence is really a way of carrying yourself with an understanding of who you are and the impact you can have. It doesn’t mean having a great ego, but it is knowing that people are looking at you to be the leader and to set the tone.
Presence also comes from the way you communicate. It starts with being prepared, being direct and speaking the truth. It’s the ability to command a room or a huddle in the middle of practice. It’s not being dominant. It’s a way of communicating that gets everybody’s ear without being too forceful.
Presence is a recognition that you are always on as a leader, and with that comes the responsibility of holding yourself accountable to a high standard. It’s the ability to persuade through sincere authenticity. Great leaders have an approach that is impactful at all times.