7 Essential Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Championship Coaches

7 Essential Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Championship Coaches

John Eades 09/05/2018 3

Everyone loves to study and emulate successful leaders who have demonstrated the ability to win in their respective field. We particularly love picking up knowledge from leaders in the world of sports. Their expertise in coaching, leading people and running a team can easily be translated into business tactics.

Alan Stein Jr. shared this on the Follow My Lead Podcast as to why sports and business go so well together: "Both require similar things in order to be successful; building habits and doing thing during unseen hours, effective leadership, and 'we' people instead of 'me' people."

One of the best parts of following sports leaders is every year there are new stories and victors to learn from and emulate. Here are seven leadership lessons from Bill Belichick and six other coaches who won championships in 2017:

1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)

Belichick and his Patriots team capped off a miraculous comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in the second half to win his fifth Lombardi trophy and cement his status as one of the most the elite coaches of all time.

Known for his hard-nosed and buttoned-up leadership style, Belichick rarely gives one on one interviews. But in a sit down with Suzy Welch he shared this:

"Leadership means building a team that is exhaustively prepared, but being able to adjust in an instant." He went on to say, "The only sign we have in the locker room is from the Art of War, 'every battle is won before it's faught'"

Key Takeaway: Preparation is critical for success; but, in today's fast paced world, pivoting will be required and it's only possible with great teamwork.

2. Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)

Kerr's team battled the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, and beat them four games to one in this year's NBA finals. Not only did he win his second NBA championship as a coach, but he also holds the highest winning percentage in NBA history.

His leadership style is one of a true servant leader. After this year's title he tried to avoid the microphone in order to give his players the chance to be in the spotlight. When he he did finally speak, he used all of his time to give praise to his other coaches, players, and team ownership. Kerr knows he is just a spoke in the wheel, and it's his job to push those around him to levels of which they didn't even know they were capable.

Key Takeaway: It's not about the leader, it's about the team.

3. Joe Maddon (Chicago Cubs)

Madden and his Cubs broke a 108 year world championship drought when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the last year's World Series.

His leadership style is known for being quirky and unique, but there are great lessons to learn from Madden. His team didn't shy away from the expectations of them from the beginning of the season. They used terms like "Embrace the target" (world champions) and "Try not to suck."

Key takeaway: Don't shy away from high expectations, embrace them.

4. Dabo Swinney (Clemson Tigers)

Swinney and his Clemson Tigers team won the school's first football national Championship since 1981, defeating the mighty Nick Saban led Alabama Crimson Tide in one of the greatest football games ever.

His leadership style is one filled with purpose and positivity. He embodies the idea of a Welder leader by consistently leveraging both love and discipline at extremely high levels. In his post game interview right after winning the championship he said, "I told our players, the difference in this game was going to be love (for each other)."

Key Takeaway: Serve your people's hearts and not their talents.

5. Mike Sullivan (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Sullivan and his Pittsburgh Penguins successfully defended their Stanley Cup by defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of this years finals.

His leadership style is one of great intensity and focus. He relies heavily on his staff and the players on the team to be leaders themselves. After a big win in the playoffs Sullivan said, "I think when we have focus--short-sighted focus on the task at hand, and we don't get ahead of ourselves or we don't dwell on what happen in the past--that's when you have the best ability to reset that mindset, it always falls back to the leadership of the group."

Key takeaway: If you are the only leader on your team you have no chance.

6. Dawn Staley (South Carolina Gamecocks)

Staley and her South Carolina Gamecocks won their first national basketball title by defeating Mississippi State in dominating fashion.

Staley was a Hall of Fame player before she became a coach. She knows how important the connection with people is to the success of any leader. She lives by two mottos: 'a disciplined person can do anything' and 'dare to do what you don't want to do to get what you want.' In a recent article from players tribune she said this about the secret to leadership: "If there were ever a secret to being a great coach, that's it: the connection."

Key takeaway: You are nothing as a leader without healthy relationships.

7. Roy WIlliams (North Carolina Tarheels)

Williams is a basketball coaching legend. Having gone to six national title games and winning his third last year in dramatic fashion against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, his name is synonymous with success on the court.

Williams is also known for being an elite recruiter, which is why he has been in the postseason every year of his head coaching career outside of his first. Williams plays to his strength and spends a lot of time recruiting, but he doesn't for a second underestimate the importance of character. He wrote, "Too many coaches lower their program's standards and take talented players with questionable or poor character."

Key Takeaway: Character matters and it always will.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My LeadPodcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.

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  • Charlotte Palmer

    In order to move their club forward and continue to win, each of these coaches applied transformational leadership.

  • Eric Chestnutt

    A great coach identifies his players potential motivations and creates a common and shared objective.

  • Patrick Vargas

    Brillant read !!!

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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