Contrasting styles

If you watched the five overtime thriller between the Louisville and Notre Dame men’s basketball teams this past weekend, you saw a very exciting basketball game. Like me, you were also probably exhausted the next day as it went into the early hours of the next morning!

As the game progressed into each consecutive overtime period, the contrasting leadership styles of each head coach became more clear. On the one bench was Rick Pitino coaching the Louisville Cardinals. Pitino was intense and relentless. He was often seen yelling at his players and he showed signs of frustration as each overtime period ended in a tie, forcing an additional overtime. Pitino acted as if he really wanted this game to end. On the other bench was Mike Brey, Notre Dame’s head coach. Brey’s smile seemed to get bigger with each additional overtime. As each overtime period ended and the players came back to the bench, Brey was excited and enthusiastic. He could be seen patting players on the back and slapping their knees as they sat in the huddle. From looking at Brey, you would have thought he wanted the game to go on forever. He seemed to really be enjoying this game and his team.

Both Rick Pitino and Mike Brey have reputations as outstanding basketball coaches. They both have certainly been very successful. But as I watched the game, I had a sense that Brey’s Notre Dame team would find a way to win this game. Brey’s team seemed to be playing with his relaxed, enthusiastic style. As often is the case, the team was emulating the personality of its leader. And in this fifth overtime, that personality was relaxed, confident, and enjoying this tremendous game.

Even though Louisville had the ball with a chance to win at the end of each overtime, they missed shots and let these chances slip away. Ultimately, after the fifth overtime, Notre Dame won the game.

I’m not going to claim that Notre Dame won purely because of Mike Brey’s leadership behaviors that night; coaching college basketball at that level is far more complicated. But I do believe when players are relaxed, confident, enthusiastic, excited, and having fun, they perform more effectively. I also believe this applies to the members of our teams in the organizations we lead. If our team members have fun, are relaxed, and enjoy being in our organizations, they will perform at a high level. It’s tough to argue with Rick Pitino’s record of success. But based on the team personalities I saw in this tremendous game, I would choose to emulate Brey’s style with my team at work. I want a team that is excited, enthusiastic, and approaches work (and life) with pizzazz! What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading,


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