Monday, August 4, 2008

Will the Grizzlies Find Leadership?

Fortidunie Vincimus (By Endurance we Conquer)

This was the family motto of Ernest Shackleton, the famed explorer whose leadership during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition prevented a single death of his expedition when he was trapped on an ice flow off of Antarctica for over 20 months. His story was not one of great success but of great leadership. His vision and inspiration that enabled these men to survive an arctic winter is legendary even if the ultimate outcome of his expedition was complete failure.

So what does this have to do with the Grizzlies? Well I was reading Eric Musselman's blog the other day titled "Talent is Never Enough" based on the book of the same title by John Maxwell. The gist of the book revolved around this quote according to Musselman:

"Simple talent will never translate into success unless other factors related to character and attitude are strong as well. The more talented a team is, the more leadership is needed. Teams don't simply come together on their own; that they require leadership to do so."

It got me thinking about the Grizzlies. They have significantly increased the talent level on the team with the additions of O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol joining the developing talents of Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. Talent doesn't appear to be the problem on this team. Not many teams in the NBA can boast as much young talent as the Grizzlies can trot out every night. Throw in Milicic, Crittenton, Jaric, Walker and Hakim Warrick and you have extremely talented players two deep at almost every position. What is lacking is leadership.

I want to look at leadership at the Grizzlies. First I will look at leadership at the top. The Front Office people who make the decisions on the make up of the team. In Memphis this is the trio of Michael Heisley, Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni. Each have roles to play in the team and how they lead goes a long way in determining how the team feels. These men are the Generals in the field headquarters so to speak. They aren't in the field but their decisions determine the likely success of those in the field of battle. In the second part I will discuss the actual players on the court or soldiers in the field to continue the analogy.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Michael Heisley is definitely providing leadership of a sorts right now. He has laid down the vision the franchise is to take. He has established performance standards that need to be reached while maintaining the ultimate vision of success. That is the primary job of a leader: to focus anxiety on short term objectives while never losing sight of the ultimate goal. The problem many people have with Mr. Heisley is not his vision but rather his lack of inspiration. Heisley hits people over the head with his vision and doesn't appear to inspire them to share in his vision. This blunt approach may work in turning the ship around but with out inspiration it won't convince people to buy into that vision.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
Stephen Covey

Chris Wallace has not shown true leadership of this team in his role. Rather than leading the team with his vision, Chris Wallace is merely administering the vision laid down by his superior. Chris Wallace has done what he was told to do but it is not his vision that is being pursued. At least that is not the message that Memphis is getting. It is obviously Heisley's vision and Wallace being the effective manager exercising the discipline to do what the leader has demanded must be done.

Of course there is a theory that to be a great leader, one must first be a good servant. If that is the case Wallace could be exercising his servantship position now to become the leader of the future. Wallace is somewhat hamstrung in how he builds this team, but he is in fact making a large amount of the personnel decisions. What the Grizzlies become will have as much to do with who is here three years from now as it does in the way the team came to be there. Heisley may be determining how much is paid to players but it is Wallace determining who the players are that get paid.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
Theodore M. Hesburgh

If there was one major complaint about Marc Iavaroni's first season as head coach it had to be his vision of what the Grizzlies should become. Many fans have questioned just what the vision of a Marc Iavaroni coached team is. Does he want the team to run or to control the ball? Does he want the team to focus on rebounding and defense or get out and run? Whatever his vision of this team is, he needs to sell it to the team and the city so they can buy into his vision.

The good news is that Iavaroni is starting his 2nd season as a head coach at any level this year. He knows what he has to do to keep his job. What everyone needs to see from him is a clear vision of what to expect from this team. Not vague platitudes but a clearly stated vision.

What worries me is that Iavaroni still seems reluctant to put forward his vision. He seems to be deferring to Kevin O'Neill's strategy on defense and leaving everyone guessing on offense. You can't lead without a confident steady message that the team can rally their support around. You can't lead saying that you are giving power to your subordinates and washing your hands of the matter. Either this is your team and O'Neill is working your strategy or it's not.

It is time for Iavaroni to stand up and be the leader on the bench.

Next I will look at the players....

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

Ah, leadership . . . that most intangible of intangibles.

I'm glad we got Rudy, but the leadership we gave up in Shane is what crippled this team for the past two seasons.

We do need on-the-court leadership. Who's it gonna be? My guess is Conley or Mayo.

There are training programs out there that develop leadership via experiential learning . . . I've been a part of them. Something completely off the court.

The thing about leadership is that it's not something you turn on and off--it's part of who you are. It's no coincidence that Shane was as active in the community as he was on the court. It's no coincidence that a number of people want Shane to come back and run for public office. He carries those qualities of leadership with him wherever he goes.

So maybe the place where we start to look and develop leadership in our young guys is off the court . . .


ot said...

well written Chip. I agree on the leadership. We need on court leadership more than anyting, and I completely agree with L3E about Battier. We have sucked since the day he left.