Monday, April 6, 2009

The Carolina Way

Tonight UNC is playing Michigan State for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship – it’s my favorite night of the year!

I enjoy it even more when it’s an ACC school (usually Duke or UNC) playing for the championship and tonight I will be a Tarheel fan!

Dean Smith, legendary UNC coach, wrote a great book on leadership, The Carolina Way. I thought today would be a good day to quote Coach Smith on leadership:

“We couldn’t have had the long run of success that we enjoyed if we’d been too stubborn to change and come up with new ideas and different ways to play the game.

Don’t fear change. Sometimes change can refresh a stale team; sometimes it’s mandated by changing personnel; sometimes the rules of the game change. We adapted each year to hide our weaknesses and accentuate our strengths.

Although we didn’t have a system at North Carolina, we certainly had a philosophy. We believed in it strongly and didn’t stray far from it. It was our mission statement, our strategic plan, our entire approach in a nutshell: play hard; play smart; play together.

Hard meant with effort, determination and courage; together mean unselfishly, trusting your teammates and doing everything possible not to let them down; smart meant with good execution and poise, treating each possession as if it were the only one in the game.

I’ve long been convinced that college basketball coaches offer the best wisdom for church leadership. Typically they lead and serve institutions with great history and traditions (just like our churches). There are fans (students and alumni) with high expectations for a team’s performance (just like our congregations). For the most part their players are volunteers. Although the stars are certainly scholarship players – money is not available as an incentive to reward performance (we can’t use money to inspire our staffs or congregations).

College basketball coaches and pastors depend on a commitment to a common vision and goal, a love of the institution and dedication to teammates. That’s why Smith’s The Carolina Way and Mike Krzyzewski’s Leading with the Heart are two of my most read leadership books.

So tonight, as I am pulling for an ACC/UNC victory, I’ll also be thinking about how the Grace team might play hard, smart and together.

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