Great leaders are not measured by what they achieve but rather what their followers in which they mentor are able to achieve. Sports provide strong examples of leadership and one of those examples being Duke’s head basketball Coach Mike Krzyewski who has been the head coach for thirty years, winning three NCAA Championships and twelve National Coach of the Year awards. The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team written by Mike Krzyzewski takes the reader on a journey revealing how Coach K unified the NBA’s best to establish a set of standards to become something larger than themselves and bring home an Olympic gold medal in 2008. Throughout this paper, I will look closely at how Coach K’s leadership style entails qualities of adaptive leadership, authentic leadership, and servant leadership.
Key words: adaptive leadership, authentic leadership, servant leadership
Take The Time
Coach K displays specific leadership skills in his ability to display patience, gain perspective, establish standards, trustworthiness, adapt internally, self-assessment, and practice team building. The book breaks up each chapter title to include taking the time to before each focus. I think that this is extremely beneficial in placing an emphasis on the kind of patience that Coach K has when it comes to building a team, He states that “you do not select a team, you select a group of people and then work together to develop into a team. In other words teams don’t instantaneously become, they evolve. To do so, you need time, goals, and competition” (Krzyzewski p.17). When Coach K talks about “time” he address that he simply doesn’t mean the amount of days or weeks spent with one another, but rather the way you spend time the quality of time. “The time you spend as a team is defined by moments: moments that unite, create understanding, and allow you to discover your identity” (Krzyzewski p.19). Coach K also displays his ability to practice team building. He places an emphasis that every team needs an ultimate goal, a purpose for which it unites and prepares. He states that “team building is hard work. Take the time to choose your people understand context, gain perspective, form relationships, develop a support system, establish standards, cultivate leadership, adapt internally, learn the language, practice, self-assess, and get motivated”(p.219). The practice of team building and continued emphasis on patience are both key leadership skills and behaviors in which Coach K is able to demonstrate throughout each chapter.
Throughout this leadership course we have discussed the different leadership styles that are often used. One leadership approach that we focused on was adaptive leadership, which “takes a unique approach that emphasizes that leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multiple dimensions and activities. And conceptualizes the leader not as one who solves problems for people, but rather as one who encourages others to do the problem solving” (Northouse p.290). Throughout the book Coach K exhibits qualities of adaptive leadership. One way in which he does this is when he states “take the time to adapt internally. Remember that everyone on a team must adapt, including the leader, so that your team benefits from the best of each member. When leaders make clear their willingness to change, it establishes an environment in which everyone can be comfortable adapting” (Krzyzewski p.126). Adaptive leadership takes a unique approach that emphasizes that leadership is a complex interactive process comprising multiple dimensions and activities (Northouse p.290).
Authentic leadership describes leadership that is transparent, morally grounded, and responsive to people’s needs and values (Northouse p.222). Northouse’s leadership book identifies four major components of authentic leadership: self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency” (Northouse p.222). Coach K is able to show authentic leadership where he discusses making time for self-assessment, forming relationships, and support system. He states that “in team building, self-assessment must take place both at the group level and on an individual level for each of the team members. This does not exclude the leader, whose individual self-assessment may be the most curial of all” (p.146).
Servant leadership emphasizes that “leaders should be attentive to the needs of followers, empower them, and help them develop their full human capacities. Servant leaders make a conscious choice to serve first – to place the good of followers over their leaders’ self-interests. They build strong relationships with others, are empathetic and ethical, and lead in ways that serve the greater good of followers the organization, the community and society at large” (Northouse p.253). Coach K addresses the vital importance of being team first. Stating “no matter how important you believe yourself to be, there is always something bigger than you. As your team pursues its goal, it is vital that you maintain a sense of perspective” (p.30). In the book Coach K talks about how he had three former wounded warriors address the team in order to bring perspective to his team. The wounded warriors brought to light the importance of selfless service and the differences that it has in the making of great teams. It’s “putting the needs of someone else before yourself. On the basketball court it might be diving for a loose ball or taking a charge. On the battlefield it may be running into a wall or bullets or putting your life on the line for someone else” (Krzyzewski p.31). Coach K also address that with a team, you have the potential to accomplish things that you could never do on your own. As a result each group member must know that it is a privilege to be on a team. He states that “for USA Basketball, we needed to recognize that it was an even greater privilege to be on a team that had the opportunity to represent our country” (p.31).
In one study on Servant Leadership in Sport: A New Paradigm for Effective Coach Behavior written by Micah Rieken focused on the elements of servant leadership model, such as trust, inclusion, humility, and service. Participants of the study consisted of 195 high-school basketball athletes and the information was used to examine how choses were perceived by their athletes in regards to servant leadership. What the study found was that athletes who “perceived their coach to possess servant leader qualities also displayed higher intrinsic motivation, were more task oriented, were more satisfied, were “mentally tougher” and performed better than when athletes were coached by non-servant leaders” (Rieke p.227). The study also brings to like that “many coaches believe that an autocratic coaching style is a necessity in order to instill mental toughness and promote the growth of mental skill in their athletes”. However, the results of this study indicate otherwise. That the keys to promoting mental toughness “do not actually lie in this autocratic, authoritarian, or oppressive style. It appears to life, paradoxically with humility, and service” (Rieke p.227). Overall, this study backs up the idea that servant leadership has been shown to reflect as a positive attribute in leadership within sports.
Leadership in the Modern World
Coach K’s leadership style can be used successfully today. In an article The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World by Warren Bennis focuses on the issue of leadership still a fairly new concept, one in which leadership is still a process we still do not fully understand. Warren brings to light that in his opinion “all exemplary leaders have six competencies: they create a sense of mission, they motivate others to join them on that mission, they create an adaptive social architecture for their followers, they generate trust and optimism, they develop other leaders, and they get results”. Based on Warren’s definition of exemplary leaders we can refer to Coach Mike Krzyzewski as one of those leaders. Coach K shows that effective leadership occurs when a leader can accurately generate other leaders and get results. Coach K has developed a coaching tree with numerus players going on to become head coaches themselves at NCAA Division I schools.
Mike Krzyzewski is a modern day leader that is redefining the way leadership and team building has previously been defined. The findings within the studies provide reassurance for leaders to continue to follow in Coach K’s footsteps. Coaches are often pressured into thinking they must win at all costs, sometimes even at the expense of their own morals and players development. Coach K had redefined what it means to be a positive leader within the 21st century. Where adaptive leadership, authentic leadership, and servant leadership, are the forefront of team success. Coach K displays specific leadership skills in his ability to display patience, gain perspective, establish standards, trustworthiness, adapt internally, self-assessment, and practice team building. Coach K and the USA team had to overcome adversity, where losing the year prior allowed them to propel into a “world-class team”. He puts it best where he says “I’ve always believed that failure can be an integral part of success. When you attempt something in which failure is possible, you test your limits. Failure requires you to reevaluate” (p.150). While leadership may still be in modern day discussion there is no doubt that Coach K has found success through a positive leadership model which led the USA Team towards a gold medal. His proudest moment as a coach are when he recognized that a group of players became a team. It take the time to develop teams, and that is the greatest leadership quality that we should all take away from Mike Krzyzewski.
- Krzyzewski, M., & Spatola, J. K. (2010). The gold standard : building a world-class team. New York: Business Plus.
- Guy, P. (2019). Leadership : Theory And Practice. Los Angeles [Und 4 Weitere] Sage.
- With, M., & Spatola, J. (n.d.). The Gold Standard Building a World-Class Team. Retrieved from http://coachjacksonspages.com/Coach%20K%20-%20the%20Gold%20Standard%20Notes.pdf
- Moore, K. (2012, June 6). Duke’s Coach K and Building a Leadership Legacy. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2012/06/05/dukes-coach-k-and-building-a-leadership-legacy/#646be8313116
- Rieke, M., Hammermeister, J., & Chase, M. (n.d.). Physical Education, Health and Recreation Faculty Publications Physical Education, Health and Recreation. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/734b/946820aa5bd5be80ae20b2c96987b1e2db0e.pdf
- Bennis, Warren. “The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World.” University of Southern California, 2007.
- Houchin, G. (2011). Retrieved from https://scholar.utc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=theses