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Leadership

Lonely at the top

Businessman climbing on a ladder over a city looking ahead (Credit: Warakorn via fotolia)German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) once noted: "Auf der Höhe muss es einsam sein" ("at the height it must be lonely"). He could have been reading today's news.

Donald Trump was campaigning this week in Buffalo, New York before Tuesday's primary. Invoking memories of 9/11, he told the crowd: "It's very close to my heart because I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down, and I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action." His slip of the tongue immediately made national headlines.

Glenn Beck is in the news as well. The reason is that he's no longer in the news. Beck left Fox News in 2011 to expand his own media empire. He turned TheBlaze into a multimedia platform, signed a deal with Dish TV to reach into over ten million homes, and expanded operations in New York and Dallas. Now The Washington Post notes that his business has fallen apart, with massive cuts and growing irrelevance to the national conversation.

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Leadership Lessons from the Warriors

Feb. 20, 2016 - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after a three point basket agent the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Golden State Warriors won 115-112. . (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)The Golden State Warriors have been the most compelling story in basketball all year. Coming off a dominating season last year that culminated in an NBA Championship, the team hasn't skipped a beat since. They won their first twenty-four games, flirting with the all-time NBA record of thirty-three straight wins. Their MVP, and the league's overall best player, Steph Curry, bested his own single-season three-point record in February, with over twenty games left to play. Ever since, their march towards the Chicago Bulls record of seventy-two wins has been the dominant storyline of the league. Let's look at two factors of their success that relate to leadership.

Fundamentals

Steph Curry's pre-game routine has become legendary. Fans of all ages come to the arena hours before the game starts just so they can watch Curry warm up for the game. Many of the arenas that host the Warriors for away games have to open their gates extra early, because fans are so eager to take in Curry's routine. Why has it become so popular? People love to watch someone who is exceptional at their craft.

Curry's routine is based on the fundamentals of basketball: dribbling and shooting. His ball-handling skills enable him to create space for shots because he can keep the ball so close to his body. The Warriors team as a whole has taken on the fundamentals mentality, relying less on physical size for dominance and more on mastery of the basics. Their shooting percentage for both two-point and three-point field goals is best in the league, showing that while Curry and co-superstar Klay Thompson receive most of the media attention, the rest of the team are capable shooters as well.

Leadership is similar to sports in that talent can get you a job, but it won't keep you there. There are numerous players in the NBA who are physically gifted but who haven't taken the time or put in the effort to hone their skills. Similarly, many executives get chosen because of their ability to charm or embody a sense of leadership, but they flounder when they get into the rhythm and routines of leadership. Talent alone is not enough. Leadership takes attention to detail and constantly going back to the fundamentals of good communication and strong critical thinking skills.

Teamwork

While the Warriors are the best shooting team in the league, they are also the leaders in assists. In fact, the Warriors average over six assists per game more than the average NBA team. Their offense is built around sharing the ball, quick passes, and keeping the defense from being able to get into a set position. While Curry and Thompson are the focal points of their attack, their entire roster has been pivotal at critical points throughout the season. The superstars have had their fair share of off nights, but their bench has stepped up to fill in the gaps.

Leaders often don't spend enough time thinking about whom to surround themselves with on their leadership team. Jim Collins popularized the image of "getting the right people on the bus." He argues that instead of getting too focused on what you are going to do as a new leader, you need to first think about who you have on your team: "They (leaders) start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."

One thing that is easy to see when you watch the Warriors is how they genuinely enjoy playing with each other. Their coach has established a critical balance between fun and focus, and the rest of the team embodies the commitment to both enjoying the game and taking it seriously.

As Christian leaders, it is imperative that we build strong networks and teams around us. One of the great things about servant leadership is that it encourages you to focus on how to help others improve rather than simply focusing on yourself. So much contemporary leadership training is focused only on the individual, because many do not understand the idea of being poured into by Christ and then pouring out that love to others. Christian leaders focus on personal growth, but they always seek to apply that growth to helping those they are leading, creating an atmosphere of teamwork. The Warriors historic season is full of things to marvel about, but when we look deeper, it's clear to see that their success sheds light on basic principles of leadership that stand the test of time.

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What leaders can learn from studying the body

Human body of a Vitruvian man with skeleton for study (Credit: vitstudio via fotolia)Pew Research recently released a fascinating study on lifelong learning habits of Americans. Among the findings, when asked what impact learning activities had on their lives, sixty-nine percent of respondents said it "opened up new perspectives about their lives." Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline, extols the virtues of the learning organization and argues for leaders to take on the task of lifelong learning: "Learning in this context does not mean acquiring more information, but expanding the ability to produce the results we truly want in life. It is lifelong generative learning."

Some of the greatest lessons emerge when you allow yourself to be taught by trusted sources. Proverbs 15:22 says that "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed." The entire book of Proverbs is an extended invitation to learn the way of wisdom, and to do that in our specific areas of leadership we need to listen to other wise leaders.

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The Art of the Deal vs. the Art of the Meal

Religiösche Figurengruppe: Das letzte Abendmahl (Credit: fotofrank via fotolia)One of Donald Trump's campaign mantras is that he'll "get things done". While many times there is no substantive explanation of exactly how he intends to do so, the way he constantly hearkens to his ability to broker deals points to one way in which he thinks he'll be able to get things done. The image of a boardroom meeting with powerful agents is the dominant metaphor Trump is using, and he's promising to be the man at the helm who will preside over it all.

Donald Trump's boardroom metaphor is representative of the way most people think of leadership. In this conception, power is the central force at play, and coercion is the way you use your power. So, whoever has the most power is the person that is most able to get things done, and, by extension, lead.

I'd like to contrast this conception of leadership to a model of leadership championed by Jesus. The boardroom metaphor of leadership is by no means exclusive to Trump, but instead represents something the general public truly believes about leadership. It can be summed up as the Art of the Deal versus the Art of the Meal.

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Anticipating Problems

In this photo taken on Friday, March 18, 2016, lights of cars reflect behind a sign in the Molenbeek district of Brussels. Police raiding an apartment building on Friday captured Salah Abdelslam, Europe's most wanted fugitive Friday, arresting the prime suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks in the same Brussels neighborhood where he grew up. (AP Photo/Geoffroy Van der Hasselt)Reports from Belgium after the most recent terrorist attack paint a bleak portrait of the Belgian government's ability to keep its citizens safe. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both ran stories describing law enforcement in the tiny European nation as being overworked, understaffed, and unable to process all the information that comes into its headquarters.

As more information about the deadly attacks comes into view, several key factors have emerged. First, the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek has been identified as one of the leading incubators of terrorists for both this attack as well as the Paris attacks several months ago. Second, the wave of immigration that has swept across Europe as a whole has had a particularly devastating impact in Belgium.

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