Earned Leadership 

“Forget about it, get back on D!”

“D, up!”

*Shots up* – “I got short, you go long.”

“Cut! Good work! Good hit Bob!”

“We’re alright. We got this. Switch!”

As if these were lines in a play, this is what it sounded like on the basketball court today. If you’ve ever played “pick up” basketball, you know “winners” stay on the court. However, this story is about life lessons I learned from losing on the court today.

Earned leadership. What does that mean to you? Think about your team, church group, or work… who influences you? If a leader influences, how do they do it? Where does it come from?

Hustle. Communication. Encouragement.

These three words describe earned leadership. Let’s be honest, I’m not the best basketball player. I have my good days and my not so good days. However, I always hustle. When shots aren’t falling, I played to my strengths. Speed, rebounds, and solid defense. Today, I was on the court hustling up and down. Running after loose balls and flat out giving it my all for the good of the team. I understood my role as a passer and facilitator. To earn leadership you first have to get in the trenches. People follow someone for their hustle, communication, and encouragement.

Turns out we won our first game. I was sweating bullets because I hustled. Literally, sweat was dropping off the edge of my nose! I was all-in. I earned that E for Effort! Maybe not an A for accuracy but the E was strong!

Our second game we played a stacked team. Think 2017 Sacramento Kings vs. the wet Warriors! I got louder than the 12th man in Seattle on that court. After that first game, my teammates saw my hustle. I communicated but now after seeing my actions our team looked to me for guidance. I started to communicate. Bobby, get back and D up! I wasn’t communicating anything I wasn’t already doing. That’s the thing about leadership, a great leader never tells without showing first! For example, we’d be on defense and I would call out screens for my teammates from the beginning. When I got flat out screened with no warning from my teammates, I called them out in a reinforcing way. I said, “I’ve been calling out screens. I got your back! Let’s go, we got this. Call screens!” My communication was not directed at one person but indirectly focused on us. Earned leadership comes from someone who takes the blame and gives the credit!

Hustle. Communicate. Encouragement!

Earned leadership takes time. This afternoon it took 45 minutes. That was the time it took to play two games. In the second game, we had old man Larry on our team! We were down, we really needed a two! OG Larry, gosh darn it, got open and splashed! It was 8 to 10 bad guys (that means our opponent was winning and we play to 12 straight up). Earned leadership comes from encouragement. After Larry hit a big shot, I gave him words of encouragement and a low high five! Back on D, his eyes lit up and it was if he just asked Pamela Anderson to marry him and she said, “YES!”

Servant leadership is never about me but we. Leadership is about us and people gravitate to you as a leader because they know you care about them. Whether you are on the court in the band room or in the ag farm… earned leadership starts with action. And is reinforced with intentional communication. Earned leadership comes from giving your very best for the betterment of the team. Earned leadership is not about being the best athlete (i.e. – Rudy) but it’s about being the best person you can be.

We lost our second game. There was a 3 game wait with about 12 players sitting on the bench waiting their turn to play. The new challengers had 4 and asked if I’d be their 5th. I thought to myself in that moment… this is what earned leadership is all about. Care about your teammates. Give your very best.

You don’t seek influence! You certainly don’t fret over followers or likes. Earned leadership comes from living by your morals and values all day, everyday. Earned leadership didn’t just happen today on the court. It happened yesterday and the day before. Everyday what we put into ourselves is what comes out.

“Earn your leadership everyday.” – Michael Jordan

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