What the Best Leaders Get Right About Winning

What the Best Leaders Get Right About Winning

John Eades 04/09/2020 7
What the Best Leaders Get Right About Winning

Never underestimate the power of great leadership.

There is something special about people with the will to win. Whether it’s something they are born with or something they develop throughout life, you always want them on your team. 

It turns out, that many great leaders possess an intense desire to win. They are driven to overcome obstacles and are relentless in their pursuit of their team to achieve success. Look no further than Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

He was traded in the offseason from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Most experts gave the Thunder a 1.4% chance to make the playoffs before the season. Beating the odds, Chris Paul propelled his young and inexperienced team to the #5 seed in the NBA Playoffs. While they took the Houston Rockets to a game 7, they lost in gut-wrenching fashion 104-102 on Wednesday night.

After the game, fighting back the tears, Paul said, “We fought hard; obviously, a lot of people doubted us, but we didn’t doubt ourselves. The way we played all season long and in every game, we expect to win, and that’s what makes this loss so hard.”

But it’s not Paul’s will to win that’s so impressive; it’s his leadership. His teammate Danilo Gallinari said earlier in the season, “I’ve played with a lot of players in my 12 years in the league, I think he’s the best leader that I’ve played with.” Gallinari continued, “He’s smart, he knows the game. He knows how to talk to each and every one of us. He knows how to manage the pace of the game. Other than the fact that he’s a great talent, amazing talent, all these things make him a great leader.”

Leaders don’t always win, but they always bring out the best in others.

Chris Paul teaches us all an incredible lesson about leadership that leaders don't always win, but they always bring out the best in others. They not only set themselves up for success but, most importantly, the people have the opportunity to influence.

Sports and Business are Different

Chris Paul is from the world of sports that has a clear winner and loser after every game or every series. Business is different. Simon Sinek brought this idea even more clarity in his book, The Infinite Game, "Despite the fact that companies are playing in a game that cannot be won, too many business leaders keep playing as if they can." 

While there are certainly times where a company wins a deal over a competitor or a product outperforms the competition, they’re only “winning” for a finite amount of time. With the on-going nature of business, the intense desire to win is a powerful skill for leaders to possess, but it’s the other part of the equation that’s most important to me.  

Leaders always bring out the best in others.  

Great leaders are always striving to win, but they never lose sight of lifting others up, and they work relentlessly to help bring out the best in others. If you want to be this kind of leader, focus in on doing these three things for your teammates:

1. Encourage Them

No one is exempt from getting discouraged. The word "courage" comes from the Latin root "cor," which means "heart." So literally, the word discouraged means "disheartened." We need leaders to encourage us and keep us moving forward.

To encourage your team, start by focusing on the words you use because words are powerful things. I don't know a better, more powerful phrase for you to use with your team on a regular basis more than this, "You have more than this moment requires." Here are a few more of my favorites:  

"You were born for this."

"If it were easy, everyone would do it."

"You haven't given up yet for a reason."

"You are a blessing."

2. Challenge Them

One of my first professional jobs was working for my dad. While those years were rocky, he did something with me constantly that showed how much he cared. He challenged me. 

While his methods for challenging me could be argued, I had little doubt he cared about me because he knew I was capable of more. By challenging me to raise my game, he showed me he cared (even if I didn’t realize that's what it was at the time.)

Challenging people is so important because it’s human nature to only stretch ourselves to the point where we feel discomfort. Often it takes someone challenging us to go further or reach higher for it to become a reality. 

Here is the key, having solid relationships and a strong bond of mutual trust is critical for you to challenge them in order to get a positive response. Below are a few of my favorite times or places to challenge someone on your team to show you care:

  • Their preparation for a big event or meeting
  • Their effort in developing their skills
  • Their focus during a critical time
  • Their ability to think more creatively and innovatively

If you help make other people better, then don’t be afraid to challenge them lovingly. 

3. Serve Them

Covid-19 is the epitome of challenging times. People are concerned about their health, finances, and future more than any time in recent history. Since each person is affected by it differently, the ways in which leaders serve should also be different based on the individual. 

Serving a team takes two different forms: 

Direct Service. Serving team members directly is done through actions that someone else immediately experiences. This includes, but is not limited to: helping finish a project, sharing feedback to help a person improve, and giving resources (money or network introductions).  

Indirect Service. Serving team members indirectly is mainly done through advocating for them when they aren’t present. This can include taking a pay cut so a team members’ job isn’t eliminated or recommending them for a promotion. 

Both direct and indirect service are powerful ways you can exhibit your willingness and ability to put someone else's interests ahead of their own.  


Midway through the first quarter of Game 7, Chris Paul passed the ball to an undrafted rookie on the Thunder named Lou Dort. He was wide open but passed up the shot. During the next break in the action, Paul approached Dort and encouraged him to take the shot because they needed him to be aggressive offensively in order to win. Dort responded to his leader by scoring a career-high and team-high 30 Points in the game 7 Loss. 

Now we will never know if Dort would have played at such a high level without Chris Paul’s words of encouragement, but since I never underestimate the power of great leadership, I am pretty sure it had something to do with it.  

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn's Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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  • James Feetenby

    Keep winning and forget failures. This is the right mindset to motivate people.

  • Sam Keen

    Thanks for the extra motivation

  • Paul Pearson

    Great leaders are irreplaceable and hard to find

  • Matt McKeon

    My boss is the complete opposite. He is moody and grumpy.

  • Louis Kronfeld

    The cultural shift starts now !

  • Owen Flatley

    Thanks John

  • Andy P


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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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