A question of leadership

A question of leadership

I’ve noticed a lot of criticism lately centered around the concept of leadership. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade questioned Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki’s leadership after Dirk said that Miami didn’t win the NBA title last year, rather the Mavs lost it.

Mark Cuban blasted D. Wade, questioning his leadership, even going as far as to rip Wade’s commercials. I’m not sure how that’s relevant, but I digress.

The topic of leadership is something I studied for a semester while in college, in fact it was the capstone course of my management degree. My Leadership professor also taught a class in critical thinking, so any comment that was made had to be defended and was picked apart, word by word. To be honest, I found the class to be quite exhilarating and entertaining. I’m sure some of the poor saps in class hated the prof, but I found the challenge to be very rewarding and a great learning experience.

Back to the class. The assignment for the entire semester was to define “leadership”. That’s right — a single definition was the focus of the entire semester. We looked at case studies, articles, history and did in-class exercises to determine what leadership really is — and if people can learn it or if it’s innate. I argued the latter.

Now I’m not saying people can’t learn how to be leaders. It’s all relative. Can a kid lead his Cub Scout pack to achieve the task of putting up a tent? Sure. Does that mean he’s a great leader? Maybe. Many peers in the class said their proof came from early development studies (and hands-on experience) showing there are kids who are more assertive than others and naturally respond to a “leadership challenge”, if you will. Other argued that you can read books and take leadership courses and that would arm a person with the knowledge they would need to be a great leader.

I agree with both points, however let’s take a look at what makes leaders successful: it’s more than just reading a book. The Atlanta Hawks, for example, aren’t sending any players to the NBA All Star game in Las Vegas. Why is that? Because being the best player on one of the worst teams is, as Dennis Miller once said, “like being valedictorian at Summer school”. Sure, it’s leading, but to what? A loss? Last place?

Granted, you have to be in the right situation to be able to lead. For instance, the fry cook can’t lead McDonald’s to a better 1st quarter. And we’ve seen what happens when great coaches land in bad situations. It never ends pretty.

I argue that sports, much like business, are a great test of leadership – will you take the team on your back when needed, distribute the ball at the right time, not make turnovers, get a steal, grab a rebound… basically will you step up and do what it takes to lead your team to victory? I don’t think that leadership is something, in the heat of the battle, can be taught. Either you have it in your gut or you don’t.

That being said, how can you argue with Dwyane Wade’s comments? I understand Mark is protecting his investment’s ego, but in the end Dirk didn’t step up to lead his team.