Leadership Lessons from UConn Coach Kevin Ollie

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There’s a lot of leadership lessons to be learned from sports.

It’s football season again, and as teams get tuned up for the regular season, it’s worth reflecting on the success of the champions in drains just concluded. While it may not be necessary to win an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship like the University of Connecticut Huskies in order to learn those lessons, that championship ring certainly lends credence to the idea Coach Kevin Ollie has something going on as a leader. So what does it take to produce a championship team?

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Photo: Yahoo Sports (sports.yahoo.com)

It a word: work.

Teamwork and just plain hard work is the recipe for success on the court and it’s also the recipe for success in life. No one can hope to be an effective leader without expecting to do some hard work, and no team can be successful unless the leader sets expectations then leads by example. There aren’t any shortcuts to excellence; to quote the Dread Pirate Roberts: “anyone who says differently is selling something.” Here’s what Coach Ollie said in his post-championship interview about not taking the easy road (via Inc.com):

“We’re going to take the stairs, escalators are for cowards.”

I love that quote, because there’s a lot of wisdom in just a few simple words. What I think Coach Ollie means is there’s virtue in taking the harder way. The harder way builds character, inspires confidence, and forges teams. It’s part of the reason the military and sports teams have basic training and two-a-day practices.

The full interview is in the Hartford Courant, you’ll want to read the whole thing.

Coach Ollie achieved great success by taking his team to the top after only two years on the job by leading from the front and expecting hard work from his players. But I think his greatest achievement is the life long lessons in leadership he taught those young men. It’s the lesson that true achievement isn’t fame or trophies; true achievement is working hard as a team and making every drop of sweat count. And there aren’t any shortcuts.