Around midnight, he was still in the gym. For an hour and a half after the game, he took shot after shot after shot. This was not some student trying to practice harder on his home court to maybe make the varsity squad. This was someone who a month prior had won the MVP award of the NBA All-Star game and will go down as one of the best players of all time. This was Kobe Bryant.
Who does that kind of thing? I realize that he missed a shot late in the game earlier in the night that could have helped the Lakers win, but no one stays late in the opponent’s arena after a loss on the road and continues to practice. At best, the ones who care usually get on the flight to the next arena and act on what they could have done differently to achieve a different outcome. Others just go on to the next game never learning and growing in the process.
I have always admired Kobe Bryant’s work ethic, his will to win, and the 5 NBA championships that have resulted from his fierceness. But, this event made me think even harder about how we can apply this kind of dedication, preparation, and perseverance in our own lives in any role that we play. Consider the following questions and how they might apply to your life:
- Do you give up too early when things get hard? – When things become difficult in a relationship or on a project at work, do you check out, give up, and walk out? Or do you show resilience and grit to persevere through the difficult moments?
- Do you want the ball in your hands when the game is on the line? – As a parent, are you investing in the lives of your children and preparing them for the next stage of life? As a leader, are you using your platform and sphere of influence to mentor others? As an athlete, are you embracing pressure and focusing on the opportunity to perform at your best?
- Do you give up on your teammates? – Do you write off people when they let you down, or do you extend grace and mercy knowing that you are not perfect either? Do you look for opportunities to make people better?
- Do you go the extra mile to become the very best? – Are you doing everything you can to become the best you can become?
- Do you have a commitment to lifelong learning and growth? – No matter how talented or successful you are, are you constantly striving to grow, learn, and get better even when you feel you have “mastered” your craft?
- Do you focus on the little things? – Are there times in your life when you go through the motions, or do you place a priority on doing the little things that matter on a consistent basis?
I believe that true champions wholeheartedly commit to preparation, effort, and hard work. They “sweat the details” of the things that they need to do to maximize their potential and achieve their goals in sports, business, and life. John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches to ever live, said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
In other words, it has little to do with others and has everything to do with you! Commit to doing the work necessary to achieve the results you want!
A theme can bring energy and passion to your annual goals. A theme also provides a summary that encapsulates everything that you are going to do and be about in a particular year or for your whole life. A few years ago, I used the theme of “Be Humble and Hungry” as my theme for the year. I also often text this to the people I coach in sports, business, and life.
As a competitor, it is often a fine line to walk between being humble versus being self-confident bordering on arrogance. Your competitiveness and drive give you your edge to succeed, but you don’t want that to tip to arrogance and pride where falls and paths to destruction often occur. As a leader, you need to command the respect of your people and that is often seen as competence and mastery, but you don’t want to come across as a “know-it-all” and someone who is not open to ideas and input from others.
Humility and vulnerability are words not often associated with the best competitors; yet, they are essential components of the character of champions. Specifically, there are 3 aspects of humility that champions embrace on their leadership journey and allow them to separate from the rest of the field:
- The Definition of Humility – C. S. Lewis defined it this way: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” In all my endeavors, I want to engage and fully utilize my God-given strengths, talents, and passions to maximize the opportunities within my sphere of influence. I believe that is what fulfilling your purpose is all about. As you consider your strengths, talents, gifts, passions, opportunities, and sphere of influence, I encourage and challenge you to fully embrace them in a way that makes a positive impact on others vs solely promoting yourself.
- The Spirit of Humility – Humility also demands a spirit and attitude of gratefulness. It means to accept opportunities with enthusiasm and be appreciative of all that God brings your way. There are many things that have happened in my life that can only be explained through the power and presence of God in my life. My faith provides the main foundation for my life and is the cornerstone for everything that I do. I thank God for this moment called my life, and I want to make it count. Having a spirit of gratefulness allows you to enjoy the journey. When you are grateful for what you have, you are more generous to offer what people need.
- The Product of Humility – Finally, humility promotes and produces a pursuit of excellence in all that we do. If you are appreciative of the moments in your life, you will do all that you can to excel and do your best knowing that not everyone receives an opportunity to do what you are uniquely gifted to do. You will lead more effectively serving the needs of others in the process. You will pursue your goals more passionately knowing that the outcome is worth the journey, and you will do it in a way that leads to impact in the lives of the people you lead and influence. In essence, the more humble and appreciative you are, the better you will embrace your role and carry out your responsibilities! That’s the way that I feel about my work and my life.
Humility is not cowering low; it is charging forth with the right attitude and actions toward a mountaintop of opportunities and moments to make a positive difference and accomplish meaningful work! Living a life of humility is all about serving the needs of the people who are in your story with the unique talents and opportunities that are in your journey.
If you want to develop more as a leader who humbly serves the needs of others, connects with people, develops other leaders, and makes a positive impact within their sphere of influence, check out our Invisible Hand of Leadership© Program.
As a leader, it is easy to understand your role and responsibilities as they are often defined in terms of an org chart, job description, and company objectives and goals that are handed down to you. Your “duties” as a leader often include completing tasks, managing projects, developing and delivering presentations, meeting with customers, developing new clients and business, and maximizing the profitability of a business unit or entire company. These responsibilities are truly important for any leader to stay focused on and perform with excellence.
What are sometimes more nebulous are the “opportunities” that you have as a leader. “Opportunities” are not often measured by a metric and take time to be able to see the return on investment. Yet, “opportunities” often yield the greatest return on investment for leaders in terms of building the production capacity and margin that great teams and organizations need to thrive! Here are some specific “opportunities” that you have as a leader to make a dramatic difference in the lives of the people you lead and influence:
- Invest in Their Growth – Your platform as a leader provides you with a unique opportunity to help the people you lead to develop and grow both personally and professionally. These opportunities include sharing and teaching principles and techniques that will accelerate their growth and advance their careers. Investing in the growth of another person also allows you to not just manage their tasks but maximize their potential, which enables you and the organization to take on new responsibilities knowing and trusting that they can be counted on to deliver.
- Connect Mission to Tasks – In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey cites research conducted by Harris Interactive which indicated “only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why and only one in five said they had a clear ‘line of sight’ between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals.” Great leaders connect vision and values to tasks and time. If someone you lead truly understands how what they do every day connects to the mission and vision of the organization, they will truly invest their time in making a positive difference and will fully demonstrate and represent the core values of the organization.
- Serve Them Well – The difference between managing and leading is often found in how leaders support their people. Inefficient managers typically tell someone what to do and then measure if they completed the task on time and within the budget allowed. The middle piece of supporting them in in the process is often left unattended and uncared for. Great leaders serve as a resource to them and consistently ask: “How’s it going? How Can I help? What roadblocks have you encountered? What opportunities have you uncovered? What resources do you need? How can I help?
- Encourage Their Soul – The best leaders that we have studied and worked with encourage the people they lead – not just on the surface but deep within their soul! The words “encourage” and “courage” are rooted in the Latin word “cor” meaning “heart.” To have courage means to have heart in the face of challenges. It’s the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. Great leaders discover new ways every week to encourage their people. They recognize what their people are doing well and reinforce their belief in each person’s potential and ability to be and do their best work now and into the future.
Your “duties” and “opportunities” are equally essential to your leadership effectiveness and impact. While your people are expecting you to follow through on your duties and responsibilities as a leader, they are also hopeful that you will recognize, discover and appreciate the opportunities that you have as a leader to invest in their future. Make time in your schedule to identify the opportunities that you have as a leader at home, at work, in sports, and in your community, and then develop an action plan to follow through. The people in your sphere of influence will be so glad you did!