Thoughtful Leadership

Cheryl offers:  Sara and I teach a class at SMU titled “Leader as Coach” for MBA students.  Last night we had a guest speaker, Matt Doherty, head basketball coach for the school. When we asked Matt about coming to talk to the students about the value he has seen in being a coach-like leader, he jumped at the chance. You see, he is a student of leadership himself and recognized this was another opportunity to learn. Matt shared some incredibly insightful stories from his life and career, including his time as head coach at Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina. Both had many similarities and many major differences. What struck me about Matt’s comments were his authenticity, candor, and willingness to tell these young professionals what he has learned about leadership. Example: leaders need to take the time to get to know people, show a sincere desire to listen to their ideas, and learn to become self aware enough to make better decisions. He also acknowledged both the existence of the positive and dark sides to striving for achievement. The reading for this week’s class was the #1 HBR article in 2008, “Leadership Run Amok” co-authored by a friend of ours, Scott Spreier. As he acknowledged, “The drive to achieve is tough to resist.” He also, very thoughtfully, opened their eyes to the possibilities if they do not themselves learn to understand what drives them and how it affects others. For us, being a “coach-like” leader is not like being a sports coach unless the coach is one who values others, is willing to listen, is open to new ideas, invests time in developing others, and takes the time to be human. No one was ever more human than Matt Doherty last night.

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