Play Your Role

This one will be a short one, but I think the lesson is big. I heard an interview with Luke Walton recently, where he was describing the mindset of a talented athlete. Athletes who make it to the professional level in any sport, and end up playing on an international stage, have to manage the ego that success creates. And I can equate some of this dilemma to the journey of an emerging leader.

As success is achieved, the star athlete (and the emerging leader) has two choices…

“I’m the greatest thing there is, and it’s all about me”, or…

“I have talent, but I’m surrounded by others who also have talent. Wow, if we work together we can be unstoppable.”

Walton was an All-American at Arizona, and was a huge part of Arizona’s success in the early 2000s. Bleacher Report calls him “the most versatile player in Wildcats history”. That success led him to the NBA. Walton played with the Lakers during two National Championship seasons (2009 and 2010) playing next to some other incredible athletes, including Kobe Bryant.


He’s in the team picture as part of the championship group. But do an image search for “2009-2010 Lakers” and you won’t see him in many of the pictures that show up. He wasn’t one of the main guys to get a lot of the glory.

Yet, he and his coaches attribute the success of that team to each of the players committing to play the role the team needed them to play. Several guys on that team had the individual talent to make it all about themselves. But by playing together, they won championships.

And every year, another round of athletes joins the pro ranks with the same two choices.

The leader has the same opportunity. Collaborate with other leaders around you, play off each others’ strengths, and together you can accomplish much greater results than any of you could alone.

The one thing I’ll add that Luke Walton didn’t is this. When you experience success, make sure you push other people on your team, especially those who were a part of the supporting cast, into the spotlight to share in the credit. That’s one thing that business and sports don’t always get right. But you will get massive joy from sharing the credit with others, and they’ll join you in any adventure you come up with down the road because of it.


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