06.20.20163 min read

Leadership in Crunch Time

I am a sports fan. I love watching sports, though I don’t watch nearly as much as used to. Still, when it comes to the playoffs and tournaments, I take special interest. And what I love watching most of all is the leadership that emerges in those high-stakes moments. As entrepreneurs, we can learn a lot from leaders in these moments.

That’s why I took great interest in Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs last night. For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of basketball; I’m not a Cavs fan or a Warriors fan. I’m a die-hard Phoenix Suns fans, but that’s a sad and different story. I watched Game 7 last night because I love the NBA and I wanted to see who would step up and lead during crunch time. 

Lebron James stepped up and led his team—and his beleaguered city—to an NBA Championship. I’m not a Lebron groupie. I’m also not a Lebron hater. I just like good basketball and good leadership—and he displayed both last night. Here’s what was so compelling to me: He had the weight of his home-town city on his back, a city that hadn’t won a pro sports championship, or much of anything else for that matter, for 52 years. He was born near Cleveland. He was drafted by Cleveland. He took Cleveland to the NBA Finals several years ago.  And then he left town for Miami. The prodigal son returned to Cleveland two years ago after winning a couple rings in Miami, with massive expectations, pressure, and even a promise that he would deliver an NBA Championship.

Going into the Finals, that was a lot of pressure to carry. But then his team got down three games to one. No team had ever come back from that deficit to win the NBA Finals. His team would have to do it by winning twice on the home floor of the team with the best record in NBA regular season history. So, when Game 7 tipped off, the moment was dripping with history, intrigue, and pressure. It was, indeed, crunch time.

What happened? Lebron James delivered a triple double, a defensive block for the ages in the last minute with the score tied at 89, and the final point to put the game out of reach with 10 seconds left. After the game, all of his teammates talked about his leadership. But it was something he said to the reporter right after the game that summed up the lesson for all entrepreneurs. He was asked, “What was the difference throughout the finals and Game 7 that enabled you to win the championship?”

He said, “We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity this year. A lot of adversity. But instead of asking 'Why me?' I just maintained a positive mindset. Throughout it all, I kept that mindset and knew we would persevere.”

Does that sound like entrepreneurship? Does that sound like leadership? It does to me. And that’s why I love watching sports—to see the who, why, and how of leadership during crunch time.

SBS Idea of the Day: Take a moment to reflect on the adversity you experience. Does it shake your mindset, your confidence? Don’t let it.  Lead yourself and others around you by firmly committing to your goals, no matter what adversity you face.

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