In sports we all want to be great leaders. I hope I’m not being to presumptuous here but I’ve never met a coach or player that say, “you know what…I really just want to be average, at best, as a leader. Maybe hang around mediocrity a bit.” Most coaches and players would like a lasting impact on those who hear them.

There are many different ways to look at leadership but at its core, leadership is

…decisions filled with power that others choose to follow.

Power, according to Warren Bennis (an often-praised ‘godfather’ of leadership understanding), is the control over the means of another’s satisfaction. And leaders possess power…either by position or by persuasion.

You can’t be a leader if you don’t make decisions. And you definitely aren’t a leader yet if you make decisions that no one follows. I notice this energy dynamic in my classroom when I teach. Why do I mention any of this?

I think that young collegiate athletes who desire to be leaders on their athletic team can get caught up in the desire for power & decision-making authority, and miss what’s hidden within leadership’s core.

We know through history that the ability to make decisions filled with power doesn’t mean that people will follow…even though their “satisfaction” is on the line.

Look at slavery in the U.S. That leadership was upended even though the ‘satisfaction’ of the slaves would be in jeopardy.

Look at students behavior in a classroom; student’s definitely don’t always follow even for their own ‘satisfaction’.

In sports, how many times do you see or hear of athletes who don’t respond to their coach and play at their best although the coach has power over them.

Why does that happen…because hidden within leadership’s core and what drives a leader to make a lasting impact is CHARACTER – the innate qualities of the person making the decisions. Without character, it’s only a takes a matter of time before your leadership is upended.

Sometimes a leader must make decisions that are against how they feel at the moment. You must be able to manage your emotions and make the decision that works for the satisfaction of those who are following your words. That’s character!

I once read a quote from Erik Thoennes who had a great thought about this:

“There’s this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.”

People don’t mind following a leader who is willing to show integrity. Build your character, you build your lasting impact.

There is only one way to have lasting impact as a leader and that is to be a person of integrity.


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