Kerr was absent during most of the championship playoffs due to his recovering from back surgery. But as Chris Ballard (no relation) wrote in the May 29 issue of Sports Illustrated, “No Coach, No Problem.” Ballard’s article provided insight into Kerr’s leadership style, illuminating characteristics of outstanding leaders:
- Respect. Great leaders earn respect and respect others. Players and other coaches respect Coach Kerr highly.
- It’s not about you. When you make a moment about you and not the team or the organization, you start to lose them. It is always about them, about those you lead. Kerr allowed Sports Illustrated only one photo of himself.
- Humility and compassion. Kerr: “The people to me who are the most powerful leaders are the ones who have great talent in whatever their field is, great conviction in their ability to teach it and act it, but an awareness and a humility and compassion for others” (p. 30)
- Nurture freedom, build trust. Coach Kerr has built a culture where players are participants willing to share ideas. It’s not “my way or the highway” but the opposite. The players trust each other and the coaches and vice versa.
- Empower. Kerr’s leadership is highly participative, not hierarchical. Regardless of minutes played, every player is part of the process, the flow, and ready to step up when called.
- Grit. Out of high school Kerr only had one scholarship to a major college basketball program. Ballard noted that as an NBA player for 15 seasons, Kerr only started 30 games. Success goes to those who persevere.
- Communicate. Kerr has conversations with players where as he puts it, he may “overcommunicate” and sometimes he writes notes to players. Players know where they stand; what they need to do to improve.
- Know your people. Warrior player Draymond Green: “he knows me . . . That’s his thing. He has this feel for exactly what each player needs” (p.32).
- Perspective: Kerr: “Take things seriously, but not yourself.”
- Live your core values: Kerr: “What I learned from all the coaches I talked to was that your entire process has to reflect your core values” (p. 34). Kerr’s core values: joy, competition, compassion, mindfulness.
1. A great article with good insights for all who choose to lead. My opinion is that allowing your core values to be reflected in your work may be problematic in some organizations. If your core values as a leader do not align with the core values of the organization, then living those core values may be tough. It happens. Sometimes the core values of an organization are not the espoused values.
2. Organizational culture is key. Trust is bedrock for a healthy culture. Kerr trusts and listens. Show me a culture where there are high levels of trust, I expect to see a successful organization with engaged employees. Show me a culture where there are low levels of trust, I expect disengaged employees. Trust starts at the top.
3. I really like Chris Ballard’s summary of how to lead like Steve Kerr. Kerr learned much from Gregg Popovich, President and Head Coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Kerr and Popovich are great leaders from whom many can learn.
Ballard, C. (2017, May 29). "No coach, no problem." Sports Illustrated, 126 (15), 28-35.
Image, “Steve Kerr,” by Keith Allison.
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Used with permission: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
© John Ballard, PhD, 2017. All rights reserved.
I am very grateful to Coach Popovich for endorsing my book Decoding the Workplace, BEST CAREER BOOK Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2016.
Please visit www.decodingtheworkplace.com.