Western Albemarle girl’s basketball always has something to teach me about leadership:• Diverse personalities on the team, yet they really like each other;• Team seems more important than individual accomplishment;• Fun is paramount to success;• Diverse skills across the team complement one another, so that the whole is greater than the parts.• Calm, steady, unflappable are great leadership traits on the court, and in life.
…and on and on.Last night Western girl’s basketball team played for the regional semi-final — the first time Western has progressed this far since 02 I hear. Half of the twelve girls have been playing together for 4+ years, some 6+. Three seniors.We played in the Fluvanna “Shoebox” — it must have been 85 degrees. I’m guessing 600 people on hand, dressed all in white — a white out they call it. Eighteen Western fans, including me, huddled behind the team, cheering like crazy, but drowned out in the sea of Fluco fans. Western led the entire first half, until the final 2.6 seconds when the Fluvanna star — district player of the year — stole the ball and drove down for a layup. Flucos up by one at the half. Flucos came out strong in the third quarter, building a ten point lead, but one of Western senior leaders, scoreless most of the game, hit two consecutive three point shots (one should have been a four point, she was so far out) and brought the Warriors within three. The game went down to the wire, with the lead exchanging hands multiple times, only to end the first thirty two minutes with a tie. Overtime was another four minutes…down to the wire again… Warriors up by one — a Fluco got fouled shooting a three point shot with four seconds left and got three free throws. Missed the first. Made the second for the tie. Missed the third, Warriors rebounded, drove down the court for the last shot on the buzzer — NO GOOD. Another tie. We headed to double overtime — four more minutes. Both teams fought hard for every loose ball. No one wanted to lose, but someone had to win. Down to less than three seconds — Warriors score to take a one point lead. Ball passed in-bounds to the Fluco superstar, a sophomore no less. She took control, drove the length of the court, not to be denied. But she was denied, and the foul was called with less than two seconds remaining. She stepped up to the line, shot. Made the first one. Tie game. Fans went crazy. She stepped up again, three dribbles, shot, high arch — nothing but net. Flucos won. Wow, I’m exhausted just re-thinking it.As I reflect from last night, what did I learn from this game, that I can apply to business:• Home court advantage is a good thing — think about how to use it to your advantage in the business world.• Fight the game until the end — don’t give up because you fall behind the first half (job seekers — see any parallels?)• Expect your leaders to lead, and join in with them — our unflappable point guard played every minute, never lost her cool, seldom lost the ball, and brought the team along with her every step of the way;• Look for leadership from everyone, not just your normal leaders — fun to watch an underclassman step in and contribute and lead when needed;• Superstars come through in the clutch — make sure you have them on your team.
Yet, I learned/reminded myself of one other leadership trait from last night’s game: perspective. My daughter’s basketball game is more important than my work. I “should” have been in Boston at a work event last night — I had planned to go. Yet, when Western won on Tuesday night — a game that I missed due to a work event, the final game was scheduled for Thursday night, conflicting with my event in Boston. I wrestled with the decision — should I go to the game or to Boston? I had just missed a big game Tuesday because of work. But now again? Fortunately, this time the work situation was a little different: my role in Boston could be easily covered–my team was ready to be in place to execute without me. My attendance was a nice-to-do, but not a must. (I felt Tuesday my attendance was a must, but I’m sure it could be debated.)Two of three of my kids are out of the house. I’ve traveled a great deal in my career and missed many important events. I don’t have a lot of regrets, but I do have a much better perspective than I did when I started out in my work career. I want to be there with my kids, for my kids. Experience and time have given me that perspective.Perspective is such a critical leadership trait. Perspective is the appearance of things relative to one another (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn). When you are in a job, or school, or job search, it is so easy to get absorbed into what you are doing. It’s easy to lose perspective on the problem, on life. Then the solution is difficult to find. For example, I’m talking to many first-year students at Darden School of Business lately that may be losing perspective. They are questioning their decision to attend business school because they haven’t yet landed the summer internship of their dream. I wish (I try to) I could help them step back and see what a small part of their overall career this internship will be, and that there are many paths, not just the one they had in mind, to getting to what they want to do and are passionate about. And the idea of school and learning and developing and growing is much more important than just this summer’s experience. If they only had my perspective…Western girls were all crying last night. They’d worked so hard, and come so far, only to have it end in double overtime, by one point. Yet, I was so happy for them…I had a different perspective. I had shared this very tiny life event with them. It was the experience for me, not the outcome. Yet, I still think they should have won.