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Careerminds

LeBron’s Leadership Lessons

See if you can go through this entire day without making or hearing at least one sports analogy.  Think: he goes the whole nine yards; that’s a home run; they dropped the ball; and life’s a marathon not a sprint.

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So let’s take a look at LeBron James, one of this year’s most successful athletes who displayed outstanding leadership skills bringing an NBA Championship to Cleveland.

First, James has vision which may be the most important trait of an effective leader.  James returned to the Cavaliers intent on bringing a championship to Cleveland.  By his belief that this could be accomplished, his teammates could see an historic winning season as a possibility too.  LeBron knows winning, right?  His vision instilled confidence that the Cavs could make that vision a reality.

Before the season, James gathered his teammates and told each player what he expected them to do.  He let them know that he believed in them, that his vision for the whole team was achievable.  So vision is essential but unless the leader can articulate that as well as his/her belief that the team can do it, you only have words.

“Part of being a leader is making people also believe that sometimes they can do more than they actually can do,” wrote Forbes Magazine leadership columnist Victor Lipman about James.  “Give them a sense of belief and confidence that they can bring more to the team that even they think they can individually.”

Next, LeBron James is known as a man who actually walks the talk and has conviction in his beliefs.  He conveys a ‘never give up’ spirit and then when a game appears to be on the line, he has a knack for coming through.  When a leader possesses this quality, the rest can be easy: follow my example not just my words.

The learning leader.  James was vilified when he left the Cavaliers for the bigger success and dollars of the Miami Heat some years ago.  But he did more than win there… he observed, asked questions and absorbed leadership skills from some of the game’s greatest talents.  And then he took that insight back home to Cleveland.  Some might say that good leaders like James ‘know what they know as well as what they don’t know.’

Face your critics.  Just before James returned to his original team, which had never won a championship in its 46-year history, he first sat down with his most vocal critics, including the Cavaliers’ top executives.

As a strong person, if you got a problem with somebody, you sit down face to face and you talk to them eye to eye. And you hash it out and move on. A lot of things that go on in life or in sports with people kind of holding grudges are because they're afraid to actually take a step forward.  It's a fine line between pride and progress.  And I'm on the progress side. I'm not on the pride side.

Back to vision.  Next time you face a leadership challenge, picture LeBron not in shorts dribbling a basketball, but facing a person, opportunity, or crisis and drawing on these skills to identify positive solutions.  Take his guidance and follow his example because you know what the man himself would say?  “You can do it, look at your skills, your successes and wins and based on that, make your move…”

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