What Does LeBron James Know About Leadership?
Athletes learn and practice leadership. They get elected. We can learn from them.
To tell anÂ athleteÂ to “shut up and dribble” shows profound misunderstanding of how muchÂ sports and athletics teachÂ leadership, all the more so amongÂ leaders of champion teams.
If you read Inc. to improve your leadership, LeBronÂ James may have his flaws, as any leader does, but remains an exemplary role model. As a leadershipÂ professor, coach, andÂ author, I suggest looking more to learn from champion athletes than to demean them.
Leaders and Sports
Let’s just consider United States presidents, representatives, and governors who were athletes:
- Dwight EisenhowerÂ was a linebacker at West Point
- Barack ObamaÂ played basketball throughout his presidency
- Ronald ReaganÂ played football and swam in college
- Abraham LincolnÂ wrestled (andÂ talked trash)
- Teddy Roosevelt, the rugged outdoorsman said: “It is of far more importance that a man should play something himself, even if he plays it badly, than that he should go with hundreds of companions to see someone else play well,”
- Gerald FordÂ won 2 college football championships in undefeated seasons
- John KennedyÂ swam varsity at Harvard
- George H. W. BushÂ played first base in two College World Series
- Bill BradleyÂ was a 2-time champion New York Knick
- Bob MethiasÂ was a track and field Olympic medalist who played in the Rose Bowl
- Jack KempÂ played 13 seasons of professional football
- Arnold SchwarzeneggerÂ was a world champion bodybuilder
- Jesse VenturaÂ was a professional wrestler (maybe more entertainer than athlete)
- Kevin JohnsonÂ was an All Star basketball player and Olympian
The list goes on.
It’s hard not to addÂ Nelson Mandela, who boxed and exercised daily for 27 years in prison. Can anyone deny the cultural leadership ofÂ Billie Jean King,Â VenusÂ andÂ Serena Williams, andÂ Danica Patrick?
Sports and Leadership
Competitive and team sports teach teamwork, resilience, diligence, grace, humility, and more. Playing at James’s level gives experience performing and communicatingÂ nationally and globally.
Few of us can imagine the pressures of competing at that level, let alone leading multiple teams to multiple championships, and staying calm under that pressure. Even losing championships teaches valuable leadership lessons. Such experiences give James unique insight into national and global leadership that suggest value in his views.
LeBronÂ James is famous for his philanthropy, especially helping children and education, as well as business and community service.
Want to learn to lead? Sports is a good place to start.
To imply an athlete’s ability to dribble lowers his or her ability to lead sends a counterproductive message, especially to children, students, and aspiring leaders. That dichotomy is false.
Not only do sports effectively teach many social and emotional skills valuable for leadership, some are difficult to learn without sports.
As the Harvard Political Review stated inÂ Sports vs. Education: A False Choice,
Contrary to cultural undercurrents, sports participation and academic success are not mutually exclusive. The education attainable through sports can be incredibly valuable in other arenas of life.