Basketball leaders are made, not simply born, with qualities developed through their experiences both on and off the court. Great leaders, coaches like Larry Brown and Phil Jackson, and players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, learn from their failures and use them to improve their ability to motivate, inspire, and ultimately to win. Like anything else, if you want to improve your leadership skills, you must devote effort and attention. However, you also need to understand the special qualities of basketball leadership. Review the five traits discussed below, and use them to help mold yourself into a more respected player on your team and in your league.
Character is what defines you as a person. It is the sum of your values, beliefs, and behavior. One quality that is particularly valuable for basketball leadership is integrity. Coaches and players with integrity have positive values, principles, and actions. They are consistent in their beliefs, and they strive to be a positive inspiration for their team and others.
“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece – by thought, choice, courage, and determination.” – John Luther
“A winner is someone who recognizes their God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” – Larry Bird
Example: Before you try to motivate your fellow teammates to play hard, evaluate your own effort and communication. Are you modeling the values that you yourself want to promote?
How to Improve: Personally commit yourself to developing more consistency. If you want your team to work harder, make sure you are consistently playing to the best of your ability. If you want your team to focus, first improve your own focus.
As a leader, you must be committed to achieving daily, weekly, and ultimate goals. If you want to be a better player, completely commit yourself to the team. Don’t give up when it gets difficult. Stay focused on what you want to achieve.
Example: If you realize that you’re not giving 100 percent effort all the time, commit to doing so.
How to Improve: Recognize the steps you need to take to improve. If you want to play at the next level, you’ll have to commit time between games (and even between organized practices) to develop your skills, practice techniques, routines, and plays.
How good are you at communicating with your coach and fellow players? Basketball leaders improve their teams by refocusing teammates on what matters and voicing ideas in ways that motivate, not offend, others and do not disrupt the chemistry of the team.
Example: Your fellow teammate made a costly turnover. What can you say to keep your team’s confidence high?
How to Improve: Speak clearly and project your voice, watching for reactions from team members. Make sure you are motivating and inspiring others for better performance. Be sensitive to how and when you should communicate your message.
Players with self-discipline take the right action regardless of their emotional state. At some point, you will be tired, angry, agitated, stressed, or annoyed; however, your attitude and ability to persevere should not change.
Example: You’ve had a terrible day, and you’re tired and agitated. You are participating in an important practice for your team’s upcoming big game. How will you react if things begin to break down in practice? Will you stay motivated and cheerfully give 100 percent?
How to Improve: All emotional states are temporary. Refocus on the upcoming task instead of what you are feeling at the moment. Give your all, regardless of the situation.
5. Learning from Mistakes
No one is perfect. When you make mistakes, take the time to analyze and learn from them. Doing this will continually improve your leadership skills. You have to realize when you said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Great leaders realize when they are wrong and admit it.
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Example: A teammate yells at another teammate, and you missed the opportunity to help settle a heated situation.
How to Improve: Realize that you made a mistake by missing the opportunity. If the chance presents itself again, take action. If you don’t have an occasion to correct your mistake, think about how you will handle a similar situation in the future.
As a player or coach, you can improve your basketball leadership traits by evaluating your character, commitment, communication style, self-discipline, and ability to learn from mistakes. It will take time, effort, and commitment to improve. However, the results should encourage and inspire you to help your team in the long run.