Where Basketball and the Boardroom Converge

Jeremy Gaston
3 min readFeb 7, 2018

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” — Alexander the Great

If you’ve launched, created, dreamed, ideated or suggested the start of anything, then you also know that its execution requires someone to step up and lead the charge toward completion. For some that requirement to lead can be daunting; for others, their just lying to themselves.

Everyone wants to be the leader until they actually have to lead.

Having to direct the highly volatile traffic inside an organization can drive a person mad. Especially if they haven’t grown their situational experiences. However, just like requiring 2–3 years of experience for an entry-level position, gaining exposure to leadership strategies can be hard to come by when no one’s willing to give you the necessary opportunities. So what’s a guy/gal supposed to do?

Short answer: Gather a few friends, find a basketball court and start a pickup game.

In comparison to many different recreational sports, pickup basketball offers the greatest situational experience and strategy development for leadership growth. Don’t believe me? Well, here are a few thoughts that reinforce my assertion.

Zone: Play Well With Others

Basketball is, foundationally, a team sport. So to ensure the best game experience it’s always good to understand your teammate’s limitations and capabilities. Identifying the skillsets your teammate’s are uncomfortable utilizing or are least experienced at can save your team a lot of headaches and humiliation down the road.

Likewise, knowing the strengths of your teammates can free you to dominate where you’re best skilled. In basketball there is an important part for everyone to play that proves equally important to the success of the whole, just as there is for an organization.

Rebound: Be In Position To Help

Being a great leader doesn’t always require a person to have the ball in their hand. Often times it’s encouraging a team member to be audacious and go for the long shot, then getting in position to assist them if that shot happens to fall short.

A great leader can make any teammate feel they have both the ability and the right to experiment, because they know someone more comfortable and experienced has their back.

Screen: Move Without The Ball

Some of the best plays I’ve seen team leaders make are those that don’t show up on stat sheets, gantt charts or infographics.

A great leader learns to perceive possible obstacles to a teammate’s success path, then steps up to block said hindrances. Other times it’s anticipating possible discrepancies and responding accordingly before an issue ever arises.

Isolation: Be Fearless

As illustrated in my previous points, leadership calls for a lot of selfless actions on the basketball court and in the boardroom. Then there are times when a leader needs to step up and take the reigns to ensure a win.

An equipped leader is attuned and has built great situational awareness, which most always leads to their team’s success or growth.

Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.

So, yes, go find a pickup game and ball out. Sharpen your in-game strategy. Increase your situational experience in high stress, high testosterone/estrogen-driven environments, and round out your leadership resume.

The underlying moral is: Don’t allow your lack of traditional experience stop you from pursuing a more senior role.

You’ve dominated as an athlete on the basketball court. You’ve lead teams of three or five to lopsided victories. Now’s the time to take your talents to the boardroom. You have everything you need to be a great leader. It’s time for you to grab the ball and go make it happen!

Do you agree? Comment and let’s discuss.

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