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Leadership Lessons from College Basketball
The Kevin Eikenberry Group The Kevin Eikenberry Group
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Indianapolis, IN
Monday, March 29, 2021


leadership lessons from college basketballWhile you might not be a fan of basketball or college basketball specifically, presumably you are a fan of developing your leadership skills. As a fan of both, in watching this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, I see several valuable and highly transferable leadership lessons from college basketball. And don’t worry, while I am using the games as a jumping off point, this is written for the fans of leadership development, not fans of Bulldogs, Bears, or Boilermakers.

There are many leadership lessons you can learn from even casually watching college basketball. I’ve selected a few that I think are especially valuable for you to apply in your leadership life and for your development. Each of these is on display even if you only watch for a few minutes.

  • Winning with momentum. Basketball is often called a game of runs.  One teams can score a half a dozen – or a dozen points in a row, and the other team may look defeated, but with a spark the momentum can shift 180 degrees.  When we as leaders understand the power of momentum, we can always be looking for the spark that encourages and helps our team create new energy, drive, and focus.
  • Overcoming adversity. Adversity and disappointment doesn’t have to spell the end for any team – including yours. Recognize the situation, and help your team look for solutions to move through, past or around it. The last year has taught us that it is rarely the adverse situation itself that dooms a team, but rather their response to it. Be a leader that helps teams respond in the face of adversity and you will be more successful more often.
  • Providing just-in-time feedback. Basketball coaches are always coaching, and always providing feedback. They do it as the game is happening in real time. They do it during time outs (whether they call it or it is a regularly scheduled media timeout), and of course they do it at halftime too. Some of the feedback is technical and specific, some is corrective, and some is encouraging. Perhaps it wouldn’t be possible or necessary for you to give that much feedback in your work situation, but don’t lose the point.  Giving people feedback once a year would be like the basketball coach saying nothing before, during or after games for long stretches of the season. If they did that, they would lose their job.  Be a leader that gives more feedback more frequently.
  • Creating belief. Basketballs teams don’t win if they don’t believe they can. Coaches help instill believe. Are you?
  • Tapping into enthusiasm. One thing that has been missing from most college basketball games this year (though there are limited numbers of fans at these tournament games) is fans. Cheering fans change the performance of the players. When players hear that enthusiasm it can help them in a variety of ways.  You won’t likely have fans watching your team members perform, but it is hard to argue that enthusiasm is both contagious and helpful for any performance. Make sure you are tapping into ways to provide enthusiasm to your team.

A Lesson Beyond One Game

One of the biggest leadership lessons from college basketball might not be seen watching for just a short time.  But watch a couple of games (perhaps the Final Four this coming weekend) and this important lesson will be in clear view.

There are different ways to successfully coach.

Here is some good news – there isn’t one perfect way to coach, or perfect way to lead. Depending on who is playing you could see obvious and drastic differences in the coaching styles between opposing coaches.  The more games you watch, the clearer this becomes. As a leader/coach you can learn by watching these styles (or the style of leaders in any situation), but your goal should be to learn from not blindly emulate. Learn from others, build your skillset and be yourself.  Because there is more one way to be a highly effective leader or coach.


While coaches have coached and players have played face-to-face, fans have largely needed to watch virtually all season. And it has changed the experience for many. Work and leadership have changed too – from working and leading face-to-face to leading and working remotely. If you are leading remotely and looking for an engaging and different way to take your skills to a higher level, join us for The Remote Leadership Challenge – a 45-day way to build your skills, habits, and confidence as a remote leader.

Learn more and join us here. We start April 5.

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