What LeBron James can Learn from Steph Curry about Leadership

Be a Team Player Don’t confuse being on the same team for being a team player. Steph Curry recognizes that a dynasty takes a team. Michael Jordan realized this 6 years into his career and Steph inherently knows it. More than 17 times  this season Steph sat on the bench in the 4th quarter after the starting squad had put the game out of reach . But Steph didn’t hangout at the end of the bench mingling with the other starters or the coaching staff. He didn’t put a towel over his head and wait until he could go back to the locker room. When Steph is on the bench he’s cheering on his team. Who ever is on the floor for Golden State, Steph is encouraging, motivating and inspiring them as their leader. Great leaders know that for a team to be great they need opportunities to reach new levels, they need support from their leaders, and they need to be trusted to get the job done. Game 1 of the NBA finals was a perfect example of a team that has been conditioned to perform through opportunity, support and trust.

Grit and Growth beat Talent There is mounting evidence that indicators of success are more commonly tied to ‘grit’ and a ‘growth’ mindset. Grit is a continued persistence through challenging trials and difficulty. The growth mindset comes from Carol Dweck of Stanford and suggests that there are two fundamental mindsets, a growth mindset, that emphasizes learning, development and progression and a fixed mindset, which depends on talent, status, and hierarchy. The latter undermines effort and research shows that those in a fixed mindset scoff at effort because it cheapens the value of talent.  It is only now that there is no question Steph Curry is the real deal. He wasn’t a phenom since the age of 12, he didn’t have the publicity and narrative that LeBron has had since he picked up a basketball. Taking nothing away from LeBron in terms of talent, Steph Curry has just had to work harder than LeBron to get where he is.

“When it come to basketball, I was always the smallest kid on my team. I had a terrible, ugly, catapult shot from the time I was 14 because I wasn’t strong enough to shoot over my head, and I had to reconstruct that over the summer and it was the worst three months of my life. You’d think there are no hurdles or obstacles that I had to overcome, but even when I got to high school I wasn’t ranked. I wasn’t ranked. I wasn’t highly touted as a high school prospect. I had nobody really running, knocking on my door saying ‘Please, please, please come play for our school,’” – Steph Curry But from a leadership perspective this does two things.
  1. Steph knows that with hard work and practice a player can become exceptional. He doesn’t just say it, he believes it because he has lived it. This allows him to see teammates for who they have the ability to become instead of for the amount of talent they possess today. Steve Nash (another back to back MVP) had this same effect on teammates.

  2. It broadens the range of possibilities. If being ‘best’ (meaning better than everyone else) is the destination than there is an end point, and an end to the effort. Being personally ‘better’ however, is inward and never ending. The possibilities are endless and it’s why Curry and the Warriors are shattering NBA records this year. They aren’t trying to be the best, but to be personally better. Improvement, growth and development is their hallmark and Curry’s example makes it all believable.

Humility Perhaps the biggest lesson LeBron can learn from Steph is humility. More than anything, LeBron can learn humility from Steph. When Curry won his second MVP LeBron responded by challenging the meaning of the award (a fixed mindset characteristic) implying that though Steph was given the award for most valuable, the truly ‘most valuable’ would have a different conclusion. Every leader is the head of the spear, but they only become such when they believe those they lead are the sharpest point. Why? Because when a leader comes out and says they are the best (like LeBron did last year after game 5 of the finals), it tells the rest of the team they aren’t the best.  And if they are striving to be the best, or already believe they are, it immediately puts you in competition with your leader. It also elevates the leader above their team and unfortunately, very few do well within that context and in high pressure situations. You can see this in LeBron’s mannerisms toward his coaches and teammates. He believes he is the greatest so he treats his team like they aren’t.

Warriors in 5 Curry knows he can put his team on his back and carry them, he also knows he can go further with them than he can on his own. It’s this awareness that equips his team with confidence and poise in high-pressure situations. They rely on and trust each other the way every team should. Most importantly Steph Curry doesn’t put a limit or a label on anyone’s potential.  He believes that with effort, hard work, grit and growth, greatness will come. So when you’re watching the rest of the NBA Finals, watch LeBron and Steph and ask yourself, do I lead like LeBron or do I lead like Steph? Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance. Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.

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