Leaders Should Know When to Follow

Tom Izzo is the coach of the Michigan State Spartans basketball team. He has led the Spartans to 6 of the last 13 Final Fours in the NCAA tournament. He is a future Hall of Famer when it comes to basketball.

This weekend the Spartans upset third ranked Ohio State in a Big 10 matchup. In the post game interview, Izzo described “listening to his team” as one of the keys to victory.

Team leader Draymond Green had talked to Izzo early in the week. Green told the coach that he sensed the whole team had “tired legs” and advised the coach to ease up on the end-of-the-week practices prior to Saturday’s game.

Izzo remarked that when he trusts the team leaders, he can usually trust the team. He took their advice. Went light on the practice. And, his team responded with an intense defensive effort that led them to the upset.

I’ve been reading a book that resonates with me. It resonates because it is the things author Amy Lyman describes about The Trustworthy Leader that I believe.

Here’s one element: a Trustworthy Leader knows when to follow.

Some leaders, athletic coaches in particular, believe that because they are the leaders it is necessary for them to have all the answers. Izzo reported his typical routine is to have a rugged practice on Friday. A trusted player said, “Coach, we need a break.” Izzo was willing to put his plan aside and trust the advice of an associate. The result was victory.

All of us are smarter than each of us. Izzo created a level of trust where the associate felt like he could speak up. He contributed some knowledge that the coach wasn’t seeing. A different decision resulted than what was typical. Victory resulted.

If you know, speak up. As leaders, we will be working on listening. It helps us succeed.



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Posted in: Communication, Leadership, Teamwork

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