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Issue 498 - "Three Leadership Keys" (Bill Russell Part 4)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 10 Issue 498
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



In Bill Russell's 13 years in the NBA (1956-69) his Boston Celtics won 11 championships. For the last two championships (1968 and 1969) he was the player-coach. Sports Illustrated named him "the greatest team player in history."
In 2001 Russell with David Falkner published a fantastic book on leadership, Russell Rules. In his book Coach Russell discusses three key ideas regarding effective leadership:
1. Toughness: "Some folks misconstrue toughness and fear. Fear is never inspirational, although it has the power to achieve results. You do not lead by hitting people over the head . . . that is assault, not leadership. Dictators who rely on fear as a motivation talk about toughness, but don't have it or understand it.
Some very unlikely people—Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.—exemplify toughness. These people were not tyrants or intimidators, as one would expect a person exhibiting toughness would be. But they had convictions and beliefs that they held on to with fierce determination. That is an outward sign of toughness."
2. Kindness: "Real kindness is an act of strength and a tremendous leadership asset. Two thoughts my grandfather left me with were to praise loudly and blame softly, and not to forget a throne is nothing more than a bench covered in velvet.
Remember the five most important words: "I am proud of you."

Remember the four most important words: "What is your opinion?"

Remember the three most important words: "I appreciate that."

Remember the two most important words: "Thank you."

And remember the most important word: "You." "
3. Adaptability: "Be adaptable. Great leaders can follow as well as lead. It's the difference between an outside-in leader and an inside-out leader. Outside-in leaders are always finding ways to include others, to use, draw out, and promote others in their counsels and decision-making. Inside-out leaders rely solely on their own intuition, logic, and counsel, which they then project outward in the form of commands.
Coach Russell described Tom May, an outside-in leader he admired, this way: "He'd never say, "I want this done!" It would always be "I wonder if we can do that." or "I think it could look more like this." And then he would begin exploring the problem, project, or plan with his employees."
How do Toughness, Kindness and Adaptability fit in to your Leadership Style?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise




Promotion comes to him who sticks
Unto his work and never kicks,
Who watches neither clock nor sun
To tell him when his task is done;
Who toils not by a stated chart,
Defining to a jot his part,
But gladly does a little more
Than he's remunerated for.
The man, in factory or shop,
Who rises quickly to the top,
Is he who gives what can't be bought:
Intelligent and careful thought.

No one can say just when begins
The service that promotion wins,
Or when it ends; 'tis not denned
By certain hours or any kind
Of system that has been devised;
Merit cannot be systemized.
It is at work when it's at play;
It serves each minute of the day;
'Tis always at its post, to see
New ways of help and use to be.
Merit from duty never slinks,
Its cardinal virtue is — it thinks!

Promotion comes to him who tries
Not solely for a selfish prize,
But day by day and year by year
Holds his employer's interests dear.
Who measures not by what he earns
The sum of labor he returns,
Nor counts his day of toiling through
Till he's done all that he can do.
His strength is not of muscle bred,
But of the heart and of the head.
The man who would the top attain
Must demonstrate .he has a brain.

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)






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