“Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr showed up to work on Monday night, but he did not show up to work, apparently”
This was the headline on a national US newspaper.
The day before, basketball world champions the Golden State Warriors played a game like any other, dominating their opponents with slick passing, tough defence and high percentage shooting. However, something was different about this game.
Steve Kerr, the head coach of the team, handed the clipboard to his players.
He took a step back and allowed his players to coach each other during a competitive, televised match.
Several players took a turn at coaching each other, having their own unique insight into how to beat the opponent. The coaching staff still provided support and structure but let the players’ coach themselves with no intervention.
The team won by 40 points.
Focusing solely on Kerr’s decision to do this, however, is missing the bigger picture. This wasn’t about disrespecting an opponent, getting lazy as a coach or being arrogant enough that he doesn’t need to coach for his team to win; this was simply, in his own words, his:
“Latest attempt to find meaning, engagement and motivation in a season that increasingly had ups and downs”
Although these points are valid, I believe the main lesson from this anecdote is about leadership.
“Nudge them in the right direction, guide them not control them” Steve Kerr spoke these words in the post match conference.
This is a clear illustration on leadership in his words and his actions.
This demonstrates for me that leadership is not a special type of person with a long list of competencies but leadership is in the actions we make.
Steve Kerr’s actions took courage. He noticed something wasn’t working for his team and decided to change things up for the benefit of his team even though he knew there was going to be a backlash in the media and from peers. He acted to benefit others. It was a gamble but he trusted his team and trusted that he had coached them well enough to put them in a position to thrive.
With this in mind, imagine a leader you know was in Kerr’s position, would they be viewed the same by others. If this leader was to simply step back from their role and let their team members complete the task at hand would they be praised or would they be labelled negatively.
Put yourself in Steve Kerr’s shoes for a moment.
Would you be praised for taking a step back or labelled negatively.
Leaders have the confidence to lead through trust. They don't have to make threats. In our modern view of leadership, there is risk. You might trust the wrong person. So what? That's how you'll learn. You won't learn anything if you never trust yourself enough to put your trust in people around you.
As leaders in the workplace you can’t perform on behalf of someone else. You have to trust that you have enabled and empowered another person to complete the task at hand.
So I ask you, why can’t we all be a little bit more like Steve Kerr?
He let go of the control, he allowed others to develop, he trusted his team and he understood the value of his actions.
Why can’t we take a step back and allow others to develop and perform but at the same time not be ridiculed and labelled negatively.
Why can’t we hand the clipboard over more?
This quote by my favourite American football coach, Jimmy Johnson sums this article up for me:
“Treat a person as they are, and they will remain as they are. Treat them as they could be, and they will become what they should be.”