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LeBron James, Leadership And Investing In The Work Of Others

  Steve Longan     May 27, 2015

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Today’s Wireboard is a bit of a twofer. We’ll always talk about approaches to growing our work - but today’s article also has a healthy dose of NBA basketball mixed in. So if you've been looking to improve your work and read about basketball at the same time, today's your lucky day! If, on the other hand, you despise NBA basketball, feel free to forward this on to someone you don't like very much.


Now, I love basketball. I love playing it; I love watching it; I love talking about it. But I won't watch just any style of basketball — I love watching team basketball played by the best competitors in the world. I love watching five guys locked into one another’s movements and trying to leverage their individual and collective talents to overcome a tough obstacle. The best teams are doing this constantly — on both offense and defense.* They don’t take plays off ("Cough-JamesHarden-CoughCough") and they don’t play “1-on-5 Hero Ball” on offense.**

 

Which is why I’ve loved watching the Cleveland Cavaliers this playoff season. Their run through the playoffs has been accomplished largely without the services of All-stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. On most teams, losing 2 out-of your best 3 players would spell disaster and they’d unceremoniously exit the season.*** But that’s not happening with the Cavs. Role players have stepped into the void and turned into excellent starters. And as I’ve watched them, I think the way LeBron James interacts with these players has impacted the rise in their performance.

 

Specifically, he is intentionally looking for ways to recognize their contributions and invest value in their performance. He takes interview questions directed to him as opportunities to talk about the strengths of supporting players (as he did with Matthew Dellavedova, warning opponents about trying to fight for a loose ball with “… a guy who grew up playing rugby. So, he’s the toughest guy on the team.”) Over the past few weeks, even though he’s the best player on the floor every game, he refuses to go to the post-game podium alone (a sign of honor for top performances in a game) and makes sure that at least one other team member appears with him.

 

The dynamic was called out in a David McMenamin article over the weekend: LeBron is clearly the best player on the planet, but we’re seeing a team going beyond what he’s able to do on his own because of his investment in their performances - individually and collectively.

 

This is a mark of good leaders and something we talk about often in our workshops: investing in others is a key component of transforming the way we think about our work. And transforming the way we think about our work is absolutely necessary if we want to change the results we’re getting from our work.

 

So, as you think about your work:

  • What could it look like for you to invest in the role others that are playing as they work with you?
  • How do you feel about using your own position to encourage the development of those around you?
  • How can you show appreciation for the performance of those around you?
  • Who’s been giving extra lately? Can you call that effort out somehow and let them know you see their work?

Hit me up in the comments if you'd like to bat this idea around a bit — or give me your reasons why the current incarnation of the Rockets isn’t the eyesore I think it is.

 

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Footnotes:
*  This is why I don’t like watching Houston play. They seem to be unaware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and take an “every man for himself” approach on the defensive end.
**Seriously, it’s nothing against Texas. I love watching the Spurs play. I love every Greg Popovich press conference. I love the way they share the basketball. And I love the Mavs! Dirk is like the 7-foot version of Steph Curry — before we had Steph Curry. I was rooting for them this playoffs. They were just unlucky that their point guard rotation consisted of “The Surly Ghost of Rajon Rondo” and “Cupcakes Felton.” All of which is to say, please don’t stop reading, Texas!
***If you’re wondering what that looks like, just watch almost any Trailblazers game from this year after Wesley Matthews and Dorrell Wright went down for the season with injuries.

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Steve Longan

Written by Steve Longan

Steve Longan is Rewire's Director of Research & Program Development. He's passionate about leveraging psychology and communication to develop growing, healthy workplaces. He's at "peak zen" (his words) when he's in his music studio.

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