Basketball and Leadership Part 3 – How to Become a Leader

This is the third part of our series on leadership. This portion discusses how to be a better leader… steps you can actually go out and take today to start practicing your leadership.


Encourage & challenge others (be positive)

It is easy to understand why encouraging others can help you be a better leader. So I am sure it is no surprise that it is one of our actions you can take to help develop your leadership. Most people will respond well to encouragement. You should be vocal and encourage those around you (most importantly, your teammates). This is pretty straight-forward. Congratulate someone on a nice play or a have a big lift during a workout. Encourage them when they are tired or falling behind. Encouragement is simple but has a big impact.

However, an additional aspect related to encouragement is challenging others. Now as a leader you have to understand that one approach does not work for everyone, but if you want to take your leadership to the next level… figure out how to challenge people. This should be a positive challenge, something to drive them to be better. It will be even more effective if you actually do the challenge with them or partake in it somehow. Maybe you challenge them to get up at 5:30AM every morning and lift with you. Perhaps it is challenging them to lose weight or put on muscle. You could even take it away from the sport itself and push them to do better in a class or to hit a certain GPA. When you extend beyond basketball you can often even create a bigger bond with a teammate.


Read books & learn… ask questions

The more you know about basketball the more dangerous you will be as a player or coach. Basketball is like anything else, knowledge is power. Great leaders are curious and never stop learning.

Here are a few ideas to incorporate this into your basketball training:

– Learn standard offenses and how and why they work (flex, shuffle, etc..)
– Learn standard defenses and when they are most effective
– Research the history of the game and the greats
– Read books written by the best players and coaches that played basketball
– Talk regularly to different basketball players, coaches, and fans … get more sides of the story and more point-of-views

These are just a few points. There are a large number of great books on basketball, check out this link for our list.


Seek out feedback

If you think you know everything about your game, you probably are wrong. It is hard for us to realize some of the little things we do that are good or bad. We also aren’t always entirely honest with ourselves about our abilities. Some people are over-confident, some lack confidence. You need to regularly seek out feedback about how you can improve, how you can be a better teammate, what your coach needs from you, and so on.

Leaders are constantly trying to improve themselves and more importantly their team. This feedback is not just to make you a better player, but so you can understand how you can help those around you better…. And making your teammates better is what great leaders do.


Get a Mentor

Some of you might not know what a mentor is. A mentor is someone that you can trust and someone that has significant knowledge about a subject that helps you along your path with advice and guidance. A mentor could be a senior when you are a freshman. It could be a former pro that has been where you want to get to. It could be a coach from your team, or your AAU team, or a coach from a team you don’t even play for. The important thing is to find a mentor that will challenge you to be better… and that they are someone you can trust for good advice. Find a mentor, use them, and be sure to express your gratitude.


Develop Mental Toughness

This one is a little easier said than done. Mental toughness isn’t something that you just all the sudden start to have. Mental toughness is working through fatigue. Mental toughness is getting up early in the morning every day. Mental toughness is staying calm when everyone is overly excited. Sometimes it is called “poise”. Great leaders have it. They are the rock for their team. When the team you are playing goes on a big run, they are the ones that calms everyone down. They get the team back on the right track.

Developing mental toughness can be done a few ways:
1) Change your mindset… think in your head that you are going to be mentally tough
2. You can do it in your training by working out hard and driving through fatigue
3) Remembering to always maintain composure… tell a coach you want to work on it and have them point out to you when your body language is bad or your facial expressions are negative
4) Adopt a new habit like getting up at 5:30AM everyday…. Discipline and mental toughness are closely linked
5) Do something for someone else without taking credit. This act of selflessness will help you know that if you are mentally strong you don’t need credit for everything… so you won’t be rattled when you don’t get it.
6) Fail at things. Try new things and fail at them. Experimenting and failing is a key to learning resiliency. It can be anything… try skateboarding or water skiing… anything you haven’t really done before.


Learn from great leaders

This one might sound simple, but learn from great leaders. Martin Luther King Jr, Coach K, Winston Churchill, John Wooden… basketball and non-basketball…. Read their books, learn what made them good leaders and try to walk in their footsteps. You will see common threads across them… they cared more about their team or their followers than themselves …. They were strong communicators … They worked diligently at their craft.


You can also go back to our list of what leadership requires and learn about those. For instance, emotional intelligence is one key piece of leadership. There are several good books on emotional intelligence that you could start to read and put into practice. Communication is always key, you could take a public speaking class or work on speaking in front of an audience

It’s about more than basketball… You need to lead both off and on the court. You may be born with some characteristics of a leader, but to become a great leader you need to practice and work on leadership. Hopefully this series can help you on your leadership journey. Be sure to leave comments and ask questions!


If you haven’t already be sure to read both part one Leadership and Basketball – What is a Leader and Leadership and Basketball – What leaders do

About Joe Lucas

Joe Lucas is the founder of The World of Hoops. DSC_8916 He has 25 years of experience playing basketball, training basketball players, and coaching basketball. The World of Hoops provides intelligent and intense basketball training to take basketball players to the next level.

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