Leaders Don't Always Win

Our annual, national ritual known as March Madness is always full of both life and leadership lessons. I believe that’s one reason sports captures our imagination. It showcases our hopes, dreams and aspirations – even if we never suit up. At some level, we all want to win.

The truth is leaders don’t always win. And sometimes, the difference between the winner and the loser is hard to discern, regardless of the score.
In the first round of this year’s tournament, Duke played Mercer University. It was a David and Goliath story if there ever was one. And for those who may not know the biblical story, don’t bet against the underdog. You probably do know by now what happened… Mercer won 78 – 71 in a huge upset. But, that’s not the story I’m here to share. Underdogs win all the time. That’s really not that unusual. What is rare is what happened after the game.
After meeting with his team, Coach Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in college basketball history, went to visit the other team. He wanted to congratulate them personally for one of this year’s biggest upsets, and the biggest win in Mercer’s history.
What do you do when you lose? Here are three suggestions.
Accept responsibility – I wrote about this in my most recent book, The Heart of Leadership. To accept responsibility is a character issue. Regardless of the officiating, the weather, injuries or any other factors, the best leaders own the outcome. It is their team – they are responsible… win or lose.
Be gracious – I don’t know a leader or a coach who likes to lose. It hurts. The pain is compounded by the reality we led the effort that fell short. We’ve got to push though the pain and frustration. We need to model the same grace in defeat we should demonstrate in victory. What you do when you lose reveals more about your leadership character than what you do when you win.
Learn from your defeat – Every defeat has the potential to make us better. However, if we fail to learn from defeat, we waste the pain. Think about the last time you lost. What did you learn? How have your past defeats made you a better leader? Leaders are learners – in victory and defeat!
The Duke Blue Devils lost the game – but Coach K proved once again, he’s a winner.[GLS_Shield]


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