What kind of leader do you want to be?

 Posted on: February 26 2019
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Really?  Another article or blog about leadership from someone?  Yep – I know.  It seems as if we are constantly exposed to blogs, articles, stories, books, podcasts, etc. about leadership.  Why is this?

My guess is because everyone has an opinion or idea about what leadership should look like.  In my humble opinion, there is no textbook formula, or perfect blueprint that says if you do A, B, and C you will become a “leader.”  A quick search on Google provided a multitude of options to review when it comes to leadership traits; Forbes listed 10, Inc.com 9, CNN 23, Leadership toolbox 7.  Wow, so many choices – which one is right?

Please do not get me wrong – there are some very good resources that each of us can take bits and pieces of information from to add to our arsenal, and implement into what we do, or how we lead – if it “fits” the person, we are.  I believe you can develop leadership traits through your own personal experiences (good and bad) that fit your personality.

I have been a part of the sports industry in some fashion for 30+ years, from a student manager of a team, to an assistant college basketball coach, to a head coach, to an Athletic Director, to an Assistant Commissioner of a Division I Conference, to my current position as Director of Business Development.  I have gone from peon, to worker bee, to boss, to teammate.  I can honestly say that I have learned leadership traits and skills at each stop in my career.  I have been exposed to several leaders over my career and have had the chance to learn something from each of them (good and bad), and I am sure if you have had more than one work experience you could say the same.

If you were to do an exercise and write down on a piece of paper just three traits you believe describes a good leader, what would those words be?  Did you write down words similar to:  distrust, timid, inept, boring, disorganized, and attention seeker?  No?  Why not?  Well, the reason is that those words are not positive.  We would not want to see these type of words in a leader – or in ourselves.

Most likely, you wrote down words like honest, confident, positive, inspirational, collaborative, and compassionate.  These are all positive words, and ones we would want associated with a leader/mentor, or have associated with ourselves.

As we grow as a person and a professional, we should want to emulate characteristics from others we deem attractive – but they need to be a good fit for who we are.  I believe you can appreciate certain characteristics from others, but they may not be a good fit for you – do not be a fake.  I also believe that it is important to find characteristics you do NOT want to emulate – remember them and work hard to avoid having them be a part of who you are.

Once you are fortunate enough to achieve a “leadership” position, never forget what it was like before you ascended to that position.  Try to remember what was important to you in a leader “back then.”  Try to think about what would have made you feel differently about your boss/supervisor if only they had…

As Carl Lahr, the Senior Vice President of the LA Clippers has said, “True leaders don’t create followers – they create more leaders.”

Whether you know it or not – you are a leader now, but the real question is, “What kind of leader do you want to be?”

Mike Sharpe
Business Development Director
Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation
NASC Mentoring Committee


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