The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
In the first part of the blog I talked about the need for leadership on the team and how the major front office players are viewed as leaders in my eyes. It wasn't exactly complimentary but I did feel it was honest. In this part I am approaching leadership from the players perspective. While strong management leadership is needed on any team, it is ultimately the players on the court who have to take command. Dwight D. Eisenhower may have been calling the shots during WWII but it still took the soldiers in the field to win the war.
The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born -- that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
Warren G. Bennis
So how do you build leadership? Is it a skill you can develop like a hook shot? If so what lessons are the current Grizzlies learning to develop their capacity to be leaders?
This could be one of the largest roadblocks in developing leadership on the team. Most teams consider their point guard to be the team leader but that is difficult to expect right now on the Grizzlies. Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley share duties and both are inexperienced in the NBA. To be the type of leader who can set personal examples that player needs to be on the court when tough times are happening. By rotating players the message is being sent that the staff doesn't have confidence in one player to fill that role. Leaders can't be on the bench in crunch time. Until Memphis establishes who their point guard is and give him the ball for more than half the game leadership won't come from that position.
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
Rudy Gay has been described as the leader of the team in the past. However I question whether that was really the case. It seemed to me that Rudy Gay was still developing his own game more than elevating the game of those around him. That is not to say that Rudy can't become a leader on this team. He has the personality, the looks and the talent to gain the respect of his teammates. He now must learn how to take those talents to the next level and develop the team to a higher level around him.
Rudy Gay will enter training camp as clearly the best veteran player on the team but just being the best doesn't make you a leader on the team. Rudy is going to have to find a way to implement himself into that role both offensively and defensively. Rudy will need to become a better passer, a better on-court communicator and most importantly a better one on one defender. Players don't lead who don't pass, defend or guide the team. Rudy's individual skills may enable him to be the go-to shooter at the end of games but to reach the next level Rudy needs to make everyone on the team better not just himself. He is only 22 and just starting his 3rd season so there is still hope he can become that type of player.
"If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever."
The only player on the Grizzlies who has a history of being a leader on the court is Antoine Walker. That is a scary thought but it is also true. Antoine Walker was the emotional leader of a Boston Celtice team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. He was not the leader on the Miami Heat team that won the NBA Championship.
Therein lies the potential and problem of Antoine Walker. At 31 Walker has NBA skills. He has a history of success in the league. He has the ring on his finger. What he doesn't have is respect. Walker is the proverbial bull in the china shop. He has been a whirlwind of controversy at many of his stops. When focused on playing basketball there are few players capable of doing things as well as Walker. The question has always been if basketball is the primary focus of his life.
This is likely Walker final stop if he doesn't show that dedication to the game. On this young team Walker could be a strong influence on the Grizzlies. One can only hope that Walker takes the opportunity to use that influence for the good of the team.
"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been."
Oventin J'Anthony Mayo has been described as a leader his entire basketball career. He leads by example, working harder than anyone else on the team. He leads by action, being more than willing to set up teammates for success as much wanting to take the shot himself. He leads by his mind, convincing himself that he can be the best by learning from those around him. He exhibits the traits people look for in a leader.
However, he is a 21 yr old rookie in the NBA. Will he be able to connect on a level that others will listen and follow him? O J Mayo was acquired on draft night for that express purpose. Wallace and most of the Grizzlies brass felt O J brought more of the innate ability to lead than Kevin Love or Mike Miller. They are willing to wait for him to grow into that role but they don't feel they will have to wait long. After all OJ Mayo is an adult. He may have just finished his freshman year at USC but he is more mature than many players in the league today (and older than some of his 'veteran' teammates as well). If there is anyone on the team who looks to be the 'natural' leader on the team it is Mayo.
Of course this team's on court leader may come from somewhere else. Darko Milicic, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur or even Javaris Crittenton could develop into the player that the team revolves around. One thing is for certain, the team needs to find their leader and fast.