From athletes to coaches to support staff, without a leader at the helm of a team, none of these individuals can succeed. We all have seen and read about those who are known as great leaders, and much has been written about how they lead and how we should follow their example in order to lead our own teams. Traits such as being a good listener, motivator, and pragmatism are just a few traits that you hear of in current and past literature.

However, there are several things that you don’t hear about much in discussions and writings about leadership that I wish to address, ones that focus on staying committed to who they are, coming from a place of deep connection, and a desire to not just be about themselves that are just as, if not more important that the traits you read about leadership in you day-to-day readings. 

Great Leaders have a Philosophy

When we talk about a leader having a philosophy, it is not about the scheme that a coach believes in [which is a typical misinterpretation] or a business person who is driven just by success. It is more a philosophy of who they are, how they want people around them [whether it is other athletes, coaches, or staff] to act, and how it reflects their values.

When you hear about Pete Carroll, for example, his philosophy is steeped in competition. He is a competitor. And it is not competition with others, more so that he wants everyone involved with the Seahawks to compete with themselves to be the best that they can be at all times. Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, who’s personal philosophy is rooted in belief in The Process being more important that the outcome wants everyone to not focus on winning, but rather the steps to get there.

Another good example of this comes from The Masters University Head Cross Country Coach Zach Schroeder, who on our latest podcast, discussed how even before he became a head coach, he believed it was important that he created a philosophy that the basis for his program. This philosophy allowed him to instill a culture in his program that is understood by everyone who surrounds his program and has led to multiple NAIA National Champions.

If you don’t have a personal philosophy, its ok. Creating one takes time. Just start with your values and think about creating a culture that is steeped in what you believe in and how you want others to be. Don't just make it about you, make it about how you can make others around you exceptional.

Great Leaders Are Deeply Connected to what they are doing in that moment

Great leaders don’t just listen, they are engaged. They don’t just speak, they communicate with passion. They don’t just coach, they teach. They don’t look at an athlete or an employee as a person trying to execute the goals that they have laid out, the look at those individuals as people who they are trying to help become their best.

Being deeply connected and engaged truly has to do with a person’s ability to be in the moment. Nothing else matters to them that what is going on in that instant. This connection comes from a place of caring not just for the person in that moment, but for the moment itself. They enjoy the feeling of being connected to someone or something. It is not about them trying to achieve something just for themselves, but for the person they are working with.

Great Leaders are not about Themselves

It would be ridiculous and wrong of me to think that great leaders to do not have egos. They do. They have a belief in themselves that [most times] comes from a place of knowing that they can ‘get things done’ and have experiences that they can recall upon as a way to continually gain that belief. However, they do not make their success about them.

John Smith, former UCLA Head Track & Field Coach and coach of several Olympic Gold Medalists, believes that great leaders always are about making other people great and acknowledging their efforts. 

When the win, they thank the people that got them there, and understand that no success can be achieved without a team – even if it is an individual achieving something great.’

Leadership is about empowering others. Anyone can be egotistical and narcissistic enough to just do good for themselves. It is the great ones however who make their philosophy and culture about making others continually great. And not just great for one performance or presentation, but continually great. They want to build a culture that is sustainable over time and is always making all working parts around them successful.

I ask this question a lot in these articles, but I think that it is always important: when you read this, did ask yourself if you are doing these things? Don't be afraid to ask yourself that. Self-reflection should never be seen as a negative thing. As a person who wants to be great at leading others, you always should be want to strive to be your best, and part of that sometimes involves making adjustments to how you are currently doing things. Have a philosophy, do things with care, and make your culture about others. If you can center your business or program around these things, not only will you see more success, but you will make your experience more meaningful to your and the people around you.  

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