November 29, 2018 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

The 13 qualities of great leaders

Mike Krzyzewski USA Basketball ring

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with, learn from and talk shop with countless hall-of-fame basketball coaches over my career.

There were dinners with Bobby Knight and Hubie Brown, and I watched Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari run practices. I also met John Wooden and Dean Smith, and interviewed Brad Stevens, Tom Izzo, and Jay Wright. Through these experiences, I’ve been able to closely observe the qualities of a master leaders.

13 qualities of great leaders

1. A great leader is purpose driven. Their position is simply their platform to teach life lessons. They want to positively influence people and be a part of something they love.

2. A great leader is a big thinker. They think long term and they dream on a macro level. They don’t look at where their team/company is, but rather where their team/company should be and will be. Also, they know that their own creativity and imagination on their only limiting factors.

3. A great leader has high character. They do the right thing when no one is watching. They hold everyone in their company to a high standard of excellence. They’ll willingly sacrifice winning to do what’s right, and they model high character every day of their lives.

4. A great leader embraces change. They embrace the societal change that comes with millennials. They embrace the spur-of-the-moment changes that require split second decisions and strategic adjustments.

5. A great leader has empathy. They know empathy is one of the sharpest tools they have in their toolbox, as empathy helps forge meaningful connection with their team. Before rushing to judgment, they always take the time to view each situation through the other person’s lens.

6. A great leader takes calculated risks. They don’t play it safe for a sense of false security. They know you can’t achieve much in business or in life unless you are willing to leave your comfort zone and take intelligent risks. And, they have no problem living with the consequences of their decision.

7. A great leader is decisive. They have strong convictions relating to their company culture and standards. They believe in their business philosophy and have no problem making decisions to fully support each.

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8. A great leader uses their authority appropriately. They know that respect must be earned. They know that the title “leader” carries a tremendous responsibility — a responsibility they gladly shoulder and utilize wisely. And they don’t feel threatened. They want everyone in their company to be a leader as well.

9. A great leader is an effective communicator. They know that nothing has been taught until something has been learned. They are able to communicate one-on-one, with the entire organization and through digital platforms like text message and social media.

10. A great leader is a servant leader. They put the needs of the organization, their teammates and their employees before their own. They consciously serve everyone in their company on a daily basis and acknowledge that the organization is bigger than them.

11. A great leader is courageous. They don’t fear failure. They don’t worry what other people think.

12. A great leader is committed to the betterment of their employees on and off the court. They are fully devoted to developing employee skills, as well as their leadership, communication, toughness and respect.

13. A great leader works on their craft every single day. They take pride in learning on a daily basis. They have the humility to know that no matter long they have been coaching or how successful they have been, that the day they stop learning is the day they need to retire.

Alan Stein, Jr. is speaker, author, and performance coach whose programs teach businesses and organizations how to develop championship-level performance, cohesion and accountability. His upcoming book is titled “Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets From the Best of the Best.” Visit for more information.

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