Last night, I and the world watched Duke win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. The game, which many called a true David vs. Goliath, featured the Butler Bulldogs from the Horizon League against the gold-plated Blue Devils of the ACC. The win marked Duke’s 4th NCAA title. Making it to the title game was a first for Butler.
What impressed me the most however, was not the scrappy and tenacious play of the Butler team, but the impressive quiet strength of their leader, Brad Stevens. The 33-year old head coach, who looks like he could be 23, matched wits with Coach K on the other side of the court. Stevens looked like he belonged. He was calm, he was poised, and he executed his game plan perfectly. He and his team acted like they had played in the title game dozens of times before. The morning of the championship game (Butler University is just 7 miles from the site of the championship game) Stevens required that his players attend class in the morning. It was just another day at the office!
As an entrepreneur, I believe there are many leadership lessons that we can learn from coaches. Business, like college basketball, is a team sport. What I learned from Brad Stevens was this: treat the championship game no different than any other practice. Hard work, every day, makes it easy to “belong” when you reach the mountain high.