Two of the world’s greatest athletes have been in the spotlight the past few weeks. LeBron James, considered by many to be the best basketball player on the planet, has been in the media because he was a free agent and it seemed the world was hanging in the balance as he decided where he would play basketball next season. Then there was Lionel Messi, the soccer player for Argentina who is largely considered the best in the world at his sport. He was in the news during Argentina’s quest for the World Cup, which ended in a difficult loss to Germany in the World Cup final.
Each of these world-class athletes taught us some leadership lessons this week.
First, LeBron James taught us about learning from your mistakes and about the importance of humility and forgiveness. Four years ago, when LeBron announced he was going to Miami, he announced his decision via a televised program devoted entirely to his decision. It was all about LeBron. And when he announced he was leaving Northeast Ohio, where he was born and raised, he angered many of his biggest fans. As leaders, we need to learn from our mistakes. We first must be able to admit we made a mistake and then we need to be open to learn and improve. LeBron did just this. In his announcement last week, LeBron released a written statement to tell the world he was going back to Cleveland. The statement was subtle and humble and showed that LeBron learned a lesson from his announcement four years ago. LeBron also showed us the importance of humility and forgiveness. When LeBron left Cleveland four years ago, many people in Northeast Ohio, including the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, let LeBron know how much they disliked him. He received hate mail and was considered by many to be a traitor because he left his hometown. But this week, LeBron showed us that the best leaders are humble and forgiving. LeBron put aside his hard feelings for the people who criticized him. He humbled himself and decided to return home.
Then later in the week, Lionel Messi showed us that, as leaders, we must put the team above all else. Messi’s Argentina team suffered a difficult defeat to Germany, who scored in extra time to win 1-0. Immediately after the game, as the German team was celebrating their victory, the disappointment in Messi’s face was very clear. Then, it was time for the awards ceremony. Messi was given the Golden Ball, the trophy awarded to the most valuable player of the entire World Cup. Messi came forward to receive his trophy and never cracked a smile. In fact, he showed no expression at all. He was completely emotionless. His complete lack of excitement after receiving one of the most prestigious individual awards in his sport spoke volumes. The message Messi sent was that this individual award meant nothing to him without the more important team award of winning the World Cup. As leaders, we can sometimes get caught up in our own personal recognition, promotions, and rewards. But Messi reminds us that it is about the team. We must put the team above all else. To be great leaders, we must set aside our personal goals and accomplishments. Team goals are paramount. Team achievement is the thing that must drive us.
I’m sure it was a difficult few weeks for LeBron James and Lionel Messi. But they provided us with some great leadership lessons. So remember to learn from your mistakes; be humble and forgiving; and place the team above all else. These ideas will help us to be better leaders.
Thanks for reading,
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