Mike Krzyzewski

The Leader is…

leaders know the wayTrusting

Leaders don’t earn trust, they prove they are trustworthy. For your team to trust you, they must know you– and if they trust you they will follow you. Does your team know you?

The best way for your team to know you is through communication – you listen to their needs, then you tell them how you will lead them to success. The trust part comes when you actually do lead them to success – small success at first, then bigger and bigger…

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Can your team trust you?


Leaders already know the storms their team will face. You have been there before and survived. What bothers the team doesn’t bother the leader, but the leader is bothered when the team is bothered.

Teaching is not telling people what to think, it is helping them learn how to think. The best leaders help their teams discover the answer for themselves.

“The thing I loved the most about teaching is that you can connect with an individual or a group, and see that individual or groups exceed their limits.” –  Mike Krzyzewski

Can your team learn from you?


Leaders help their team gain confidence in their ability to succeed on their own. The true measure of success is not in the learning, it is in the doing.

Put your team to the test at the right time in the right environment. Test them enough to prove their strengths and fuel their desire for more growth.

“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.” – Sugar Ray Leonard

Can your team succeed because of you?

The one way to team success

team success - common visionThere are three common ways used to achieve team success, only one works over the long-term:

Do what the leader says is right, do what you think is right, and do what the team agrees is right.

“In the end, team success only comes when working towards a common vision.”- Denis G. McLaughlin 



Do what the leader says is right, follow the rules. Which leads to this….

  • – Short term activities that have no long-term vision attached
  • – Waiting for direction
  • – No sense of belonging to anything bigger than the activities
  • This may lead to short-term success, but over the long haul it falls short. Rules from the top can never cover every decision that must be made in every circumstance.
  • Mike Krzyzewski, the first coach in NCAA Division I basketball history to record 1,000 victories said, “The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.”­
  • Do what you think is right, make up the rules. Which leads to this…
  • – Short term activities that have no team-centered vision attached
  • – Searching for direction
  • – No sense of belonging to anything bigger than yourself
  • Even if every person has the best of intentions, they come from a limited perspective. Each individual can have a unique view of success for the team and will head in their own direction to pursue that success.
  • Hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.”
  • Do what the team agrees is right, agree on the rules. Which leads to this…
  • – Short term activities that lead to achieving the long-term, team-centered vision
  • – Having a direction
  • – Belonging to a group who together achieve success
  • Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful NFL coaches and namesake of the Super Bowl trophy said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
  • In the end, Team Success only comes when working towards a common vision.

Significant change requires a change of the heart.

the-best-and-most-beautiful-things-in-the-world-cannot-be-seen-or-even-touched-they-must-be-felt-with-the-heartLeading a significant change effort requires significant effort if you want to see significant results.  When it comes to this large of a change, John Maxwell says, “People don’t need to turn over a new leaf, they need a new life.” In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John teaches us that the way to a life changing experience is through the heart. 

“Leaders touch the heart before they ask for a hand.” John Maxwell

At eighteen months old, Helen Keller had a brief illness that changed her life forever.  As a result of her illness she lost her sight and hearing.  At the age of eighty-four she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her lifetime of public service. Like John Maxwell, Keller teaches us that the way to a life changing experience is through the heart. 

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

If you want to lead through significant change, you must lead through the heart:

Start with the heart of the leader

Leaders of significant change must ensure their heart is fully dedicated to the effort and speak from their heart.  There is no other way if you want to succeed.  Your team will only follow you if they feel you are passionate, energized, and committed to reaching the goal.  John Maxwell says it like this, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you have traveled to a foreign country you know what happens when you speak your native language slow and loud – it doesn’t help; you are still not understood.  I have found travel much easier if I know how to communicate in the local language.  Leading through significant change is no different.  If you want to be understood you must speak the language of the heart. 

“What is uttered from the heart alone, will win the hearts of others to your own.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Finish with the heart of the team

Now that the leader of significant change is speaking from their heart, they must speak to the heart of their team. Eddie Robinson, the former Grambling State football coach who for 56 years amassed a win loss record of 408/165 put it this way, “Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.”

Another great college coach, Mike Krzyzewski from Duke basketball, not only successfully coached basketball, he wrote a book on lessons in leadership titled Leading With The Heart.  Coach K is quoted as saying, “A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportionate amount of time on the ‘x’s and o’s’ as compared to time spent learning about people.”

You see, it’s been said, “People won’t remember what you did.  People won’t remember what you said.  But people will always remember the way you made them feel.”  This feeling comes from the heart of the leader, through the heart of the team.


Leaders: Do you have healthy competition?

competition with myselfThere is nothing wrong with being competitive.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to win.  It’s how you go about it that makes competition healthy or not.

Healthy competition focuses on improving yourself and as Bill Walsh said, “Letting the score take care of itself.” Unhealthy competition focuses only on defeating others, and looks for methods to accomplish just that.

Healthy competition provides for positive outcomes beyond the short term success of winning any one game or medal in sports; and any one client or contract in business.

Here are the three different ways that healthy competition improves your chances for long term success:

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