Leadership is a responsibility reserved for a specific class of individuals. A leader must be able to consistently deliver results while getting the most out of their team. When you’re the captain of the ship, every success belongs to the team, but every loss rests solely upon your shoulders.
Anyone with an ounce of competitive spirit sees themselves as a potential leader. That’s the reason Kyrie Irving sought out an opportunity to be head honcho on another squad versus playing in the shadow of LeBron James. In a blockbuster moment in sports, Kyrie was traded to the Celtics last summer at his own request. He wanted to prove that he could lead a team on his own, and that his game deserved just as much respect as any leader that came before him.
What followed were massive lessons in life for Kyrie—lessons we can all learn from and apply to our professions. Led by Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics hold a 25-17 record that tells as much a story about the team’s performance as it does Kyrie’s performance as a leader. It’s all above average, but not stellar by any means. Fresh off of 3 straight losses to teams they should’ve steamrolled, Boston barely secured the W over one of the league’s best in the Toronto Raptors. Thanks to Kyrie Irving’s dominance, with 27 points and 18 assists, the Celtics took home a 117-108 victory.
Prior to defeating the Raptors, Kyrie has been in headlines for pointing fingers at his younger teammates in response to a brief losing streak instead of taking ownership of his responsibility to rally the troops and bring the best out of everyone. Kyrie is going through what every great leader must encounter: having to accept the fact that they don’t have all the answers.
Learning that accountability is not an option, but a standard—while making humility a part of their repertoire, because seeking guidance is just part of mastering your craft at every level. Are you a leader in the making? Here are three lessons you can take from Kyrie Irving’s experience and implement in your own profession:
After losing back to back games to the Heat and Magic and falling to 5thplace in the Eastern Conference, Kyrie went straight into pointing fingers at his teammates.
“The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team,” he said according to Sports Illustrated. “What it takes every day, and if they think it’s hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the finals?”
Wrong move. As a leader, the last thing you do is place blame on the very people you’re supposed to be teaching. And a leader most definitely doesn’t blame their team publicly. You can’t expect your soldiers to follow you into battle if they can’t trust you. It’s a strike to morale, which can snowball into losing the entire war. Be cognizant of your words, and instead look for ways to identify what you should be doing to bring the best out of your comrades.
Kyrie did just that by stepping back and taking ownership over his own responsibility to mold the young players on his team into a championship-ready team.
“I did a poor job of setting an example for these guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates,” he said later. “You go and you say something publicly and it ends up received in so many different ways and you never know how fragile or what guys are going through when you say things like that. You’re expecting results, but at the same time, I should’ve kept it in house … That was a learning experience for me of being in this position of really realizing the magnitude of my voice and what I really mean to these guys. I want to see them do well and do that where I empowered them.”
Display Humility & Seek Guidance
Humility procures favor. Never for one second think that you’re perfect. The minute a thought like that enters your mind, you’ve taken a massive leap down the slippery slope of failure. How many times did you have someone in your life who tried to give you game, but you thought you knew everything? Chances are you’ve had a parent, older sibling, mentor, or boss who tried to lend you advice based on their own experience. In those moments, your youthful pride probably prohibited you from listening instead of denying the lesson. Sometimes humility comes in the form of admitting you were ungrateful in those moments.
When you reach that moment of clarity, it’s important to do what Kyrie did and own up your misstep. That required calling the one mentor he pushed away the most, King James.
“I [felt] like the best person to call was him, because he’s been in this situation,” said Irving. “He’s been there with me. I’ve been the young guy, being a 22-year-old kid and I want everything. I want everything right now. Coming off an All-Star year, starting, and this heck of a presence is coming back [to Cleveland] and now I got to adjust my game to this guy. You take it personal but, at the end of the day, he wants what’s best. And he has a legacy he wants to leave, and he has a window he wants to capture. So, I think what that brought me back to was like, alright, how do I get the best out of this group to the success they had last year and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.”
Taking accountability, displaying humility, and seeking guidance are the true marks of any leader. No one will follow a person who can’t display all three on a consistent basis.
So you want to be a leader? Ask yourself, do you have what it takes to step outside of your own ego for the betterment of everyone around you?