When is the last time you thought: “Do I really love my team, employees, or co-workers?” Love carries such a heavy load, in our language, that we’re careful to use it only when we really need it, right?
This week I watched the perennial classic Hoosiers–I mean thirty years is classic. Despite the dated soundtrack, the story is still inspiring. An aging basketball coach, a great, who is making restitution for past misdeeds, defiantly leads a team of misfits to the Indiana state championship. Let me tell you, I’m a sucker for a good underdog story.
This is probably the tenth time I’ve seen the movie over the years, but during this viewing, one line arrested my attention: “I love you guys.” As the team was well on road to victory, the rah-rah speeches were done, the overbearing motivation drills useless, and the painted picture of success unnecessary. Coach Dale paused and articulated with four words something that he acted out through the entire film. Take a look.
If you blink, you miss it. In this eleven-second clip, Coach ties together a key principle of leadership–one that I seldom see discussed: leadership is really loving your team. It’s not being a hard ass all the time and beating your team to produce more. It’s about seeing a vision, guiding people in that direction (yes, sometimes with force), but deeply cultivating and investing in the people that make that vision a reality.
Here are a few “love lessons” from Hoosiers’ Coach Dale:
- You envision greatness in every person on the team
- You don’t always get to pick who you’re leading
- Outsiders don’t “get it,” but you are willing to be shamed for the greater good
- It takes patience with each person on the team
- “Winning” is genuinely about leading the team over the line, not using people to accomplish your goal
- Ego will be rooted out of leaders. Loving your team means that you’re constantly humbled
- Yesterday’s screw-up is forever frozen and the slate wiped clean
- Rather be a team than win
Because, here’s what happens. Whether you have the best team on earth or inherit the team of misfits, like Coach Dale, loving them is the difference between winning a game and transforming and forever altering lives. Loving isn’t something that you have or you don’t. It is a journey that may feel good at first but requires great commitment and humility to actually see results. It is not easy or fast or glorious. The journey to love your team means you, the leader, subordinate and carry the burden to serve the interests of the team to accomplish the goal.
My team jokes that I like to talk about “feelings.” Hell, they probably think I want to break into song, but truth is, I deeply care about every person on my team. My leadership rules are probably unorthodox compared to today’s management principles, but I have a deep-seeded belief that loving them is not just the right thing to do, it also pays dividends like winning some games. More importantly, maybe you play a role in shepherding talent to make more great leaders in the world. The wins and losses tabulation of that equation is exponential.
Now, one piece of advice if you choose, as Coach Dale did, to tell your team that you love them, be sure to add (the gender indefinite article) “guys” to the end. If not, it just gets weird.