Leadership Lessons from the NBA Finals

For the past 3 weeks many NBA fans have been glued to our televisions watching what happened to be one of the best Finals of the century. With so many twists and turns, it became nearly impossible to predict the outcome from game to game. We were all on an up and down roller coaster that ended in historic fashion. For me, the ending was great. As a fan of the Miami Heat, I was happy to see them win the championship for the second straight year. I also admired the fight that I saw in the Spurs, and how each team maintained a high level of class throughout the series. As the series came to an end, I sat down to glean from the experience, and I came away with several great lessons for leaders. None of these things are extra profound, but having this applicable experience certainly makes them more evident and apparent.

1.) Winning is more about will than skill
When the game begins we all expect the players to have a high level of skill, especially in a scenario such as the Finals. By this time, each team has arrived at this position because of their apparent skill. At this stage of the season, it becomes more about who can impose their will on the other team. Do the key players have enough fight in them to will their team to a win? We saw this to be true particularly in Game 6 when the Heat’s season was on the line, and their back was against the wall. The potential agony of going an entire summer reflecting on a loss ignited something in the Heat. We watched LeBron James rise to the occasion and begin to change the dynamic of the game. Well, both he and his headband did (Ok, I digress :-)). His will to ignite something in his team became contagious, and we later saw huge plays by both Chris Bosh and Ray Allen that led to a victory for the Heat.

How often have we watched key players of our teams that have the necessary skill to be successful, but they fail due to a lack of will? It’s the difference in being good or great. Some people are ok with being good, but champions always push a little harder to be great. As a leader it is imperative that we always maintain the will to win, and be unwilling to easily accept defeat. As a matter of fact, we are in a championship battle right now for our tax exempt status. We know we have the skill to fight it, but are we willing to impose our will to ensure that consumers around the country continue to have access to fair financial services? We have to will it together, because our skill won’t be enough.

2.) Never celebrate victories prematurely
One of the most epic letdowns in Finals history also occurred in Game 6. With 28 seconds left in the game, the San Antonio Spurs were positioned to win their 5th NBA Finals. They had a lead of 5, and it seemed nearly impossible for the Heat to win the game. People were so convinced that they would win that it sparked a number of reactions. The ropes were brought out and the trophy was already positioned to be presented to them as champions. Some of the Heat fans were so upset that they even began to leave early. You could even see that the Spurs felt that they had this one in the bag, and they were ready to celebrate their coronation. Then the unthinkable happened. With a little more than 20 seconds left in the game, LeBron James hit a 3 pointer that brought his team within 2 points. They immediately fouled Kawhi Leonard who went on to miss one of his free throws leaving the Heat one 3 pointer away from tying the game and forcing an overtime. Then around the 5 second mark Ray Allen hit a 3 pointer that sent the game into overtime. The rest is history. The Heat went on to win the game, and in Game 7 they won the series. The point I am making here is that we should never celebrate our victories prematurely. It is imperative that you see the victory all the way through to the end. If not, you will give your opponent an opportunity to steal it away from you. As credit unions, we must keep our foot on the gas to make sure we reach our destination and obtain the victory. Right now, it is our tax exemption we are fighting for. Later, we will likely resume our fight to raise the Member Business Lending cap. Whatever the case, we must be certain to fight until the end. Once we have the complete victory in hand we can celebrate the victory. Until then, we must keep our head in the game.

3.) Fight until the end
This is a continuation of my last point. Just as the Spurs began to celebrate their victory prematurely, the Heat took on a different mindset. They decided to fight until the end. They realized the game was not over until every second ran off the clock. With this in mind they kept their minds focused on the end goal, a victory. We will always remember the iconic moment we embraced in Game 6, but the most important lesson was on strength, will and endurance. In a moment where the Heat could have folded and broken down, they stepped up as Champions and demonstrated hope to the world. They may not be your favorite team, but they certainly painted a life lesson on one of the largest canvases for us all. The words on the canvas are quite simple, “Fight until the end.” As credit unions we face battles every day. Battles from the banks, from the Congress, and from regulators, but we have a passion that keeps us going from day to day. It’s that passion that ignites to drive for us to fight. As leaders it is important to instill this mentality in our teams. Throughout our credit union journeys we will all be faced with challenges and obstacles, but our will and determination to fight until the end will determine our ultimate success.

There were a plethora of other lessons from the Finals, but these were the most imperative. As an industry, we have to be willing to do what it takes to protect our industry. Our will and determination to fight will determine whether or not we will rise as champions. Let’s fight!

Ronaldo Hardy

Ronaldo Hardy

Ronaldo is a dynamic powerhouse of an executive with the personal mission “to change the world by building the people who will change the world.” Ronaldo is the President/CEO ... Web: https://www.nacuso.org Details