Lead Like a Championship NBA Coach

What if I told you there was a head coach in the National Basketball Association whose only previous coaching experience was coaching his son’s 7th grade basketball team. Impossible, right? Well, what if I went on to tell you that this coach has one of the highest winning percentages in league history and has been named Coach of the Year. Really hard to believe, I know! But it’s true. Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, who just won the NBA Championship, had only ever coached his son’s team prior to getting an NBA head coaching position. But he has been incredibly successful in his three seasons as a head coach, winning two NBA titles.

Admittedly, Kerr was a very successful college and professional player, so he knows the game of basketball. But the leadership skills he has displayed as a coach are really the keys to his success and the success of the Warriors.


Steve Kerr, Head Coach, Golden State Warriors

So what are Kerr’s leadership secrets?

First, Kerr believes that humility and compassion are key traits of a great leader. In a Sports Illustrated article by Chris Ballard, Kerr said, “[Some people] are just so tunnel vision all the time and just go go go and, ‘I’m going to succeed’……and they just trample over everyone. The people to me who are the most powerful leaders are the ones who have great talent in whatever their field is, great conviction in their ability to teach it and act it, but an awareness and a humility and compassion for others.”

Second, Kerr really believes in his players. He values and appreciates each one of them for the special skills they bring to the team. In his article, Ballard wrote, “Occasionally, says Adams (a Warriors assistant), the assistants may get down on a player and focus on his limitations. It’s human nature. But Kerr rarely does. At first, Adams was skeptical, but he’s come around. ‘He believes there’s something special about each one of these guys as humans and players. And he works very diligently about fostering that in each individual. And this isn’t some pie in the sky thing. Sometimes we’ll say, ‘I don’t know if he can do this’, and Steve is always the rah-rah guy. He sees something sometimes that we don’t see. He recognizes the small contributions.’”

The fact that Steve Kerr is so successful as a coach, with so little experience, is a testament to the power of great leadership. When we are humble and compassionate and when we show our team members we believe in them and value and appreciate them, we can accomplish amazing things. This is the formula that has worked for Steve Kerr and it will work for your team also. Ballard says, if you want to lead like Kerr, “Just be humble and grateful, curious and self-aware. Communicate, value family, and empower others.” Give it a try this week, and you can lead a championship team just like Steve Kerr.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. – You can read more about Steve Kerr from this post I wrote after Kerr’s first championship with the Warriors two years ago, Leadership Lessons from Steve Kerr .



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