After following up their 2015 NBA Championship with a record-setting 73-win 2015-2016 season, the Golden State Warriors have exploded onto sports’ global stage. The star of the team is undoubtedly Stephen Curry, the baby-faced point guard whose speedy, nimble play and super-long-range accuracy have turned him into the modern-day Michael Jordan and the three-pointer into the modern-day slam dunk. But even though Curry may be the team’s star, Draymond Green is its leader. How can that be the case, and what can this versatile forward teach us about leadership in the workplace?
There’s more to the Warriors than Curry alone, as was proven when the NBA’s first back-to-back MVP award winner missed four games in the playoffs with a sprained knee, only for his team to continue their dominance without him. Because even though Curry is the league MVP two years running, even though he’s the unquestioned star of the Warriors, even though he’s their leading scorer and the focal-point of their record-setting offense, even though he’s the man whose signature shoe will outsell that of megastar LeBron James this year — and in the basketball world, that’s the ultimate measure of stardom — the leader of the Warriors is not Curry. The leader of the Warriors is the true team player Draymond Green, proven by the fact he was selected to be an NBA All-Star for the first time in 2016.
Draymond Green Highlights
Green may only be the third-leading scorer on his team, and his name and face may not be seared into the brain of basketball fans in the same way as Curry’s, but on the Warriors, Green ranks first in rebounds and assists, the two parts of basketball that perhaps more than any other set the whole team — not just a single player — up for success. Dominant in another aspect of the game that doesn’t light up stat sheets but is crucial for team success, Green’s also a tenacious defender, having been named the runner up for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award in both 2015 and 2016. And his work ethic is famously unceasing, meaning he’s willing to put in the effort needed to make sure the Warriors win.
What can Draymond Green teach us about being a leader in the office? Here are four tips we can learn from Draymond Green’s leadership that we can apply to our teams at work.
1. Recognize You Don’t Have to Be the Star of the Team to Be a Leader
Hopefully, gone are the days when “speaking up” in meetings was used to measure the engagement level of an employee. Modern management techniques teach that different employees bring different, complementary strengths to a business, and that many workers — particularly introverts and heavily analytic types — absorb knowledge in meetings and need time to digest it, only speaking up when they feel they have something important to say. If you’re more inclined to take a less-outspoken approach to project or people management, even though you might not be the star in the boardroom or at happy hour, you can certainly still be a leader. (Just make sure you explain your preferred communication style with your colleagues so they don’t misinterpret your introspection as aloofness.)
Also, understand that though the glory may go to Jim in sales when he closes that massive deal, the legwork you put in to support that win is also crucial to your company’s ultimate success. Every person and part of a company is important, and just because some employees or departments are flashier than others doesn’t mean they’re more important to the bottom line.
2. Be Adaptable and Flexible
Green’s willingness to do what’s needed of him, however unglamorous, lies at the root of his and his team’s accomplishments. “It’s not about individual success,” he’s been quoted as saying. “It’s about team success. I just try to do everything I can to help the team win.”
If there’s an opportunity to lend a hand on a project, don’t see it as added work; see it as a learning experience, an opportunity to grow and a chance to support the team. Yes, you may need to change your personal style or expectations to finish the project, but remember your team has common goals, so be willing to adapt to accomplish them.
On an individual level, research indicates that doing something new creates neurons in your brain that will bring energy into your everyday work, and keeping your brain active will make you a more productive and well-rounded employee.
3. Practice Self-Discipline
Deliver on your commitments, to your boss, your teammates and yourself. If you commit to something, make sure it gets done well and on time.
For Green, this meant focusing on diet and extra conditioning, a project that allowed him to shed 20 pounds and helped transform him into perhaps the most versatile player in the NBA.
4. Maintain a Winning Attitude
At halftime of a tough late-season game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Green energetically encouraged his teammates to perform at the highest level in the face of adversity, delivering an “inspirational memorandum for his teammates to chew on.” Again, even though he’s not the star, Green is focused on being a team leader.
Remember, you and your colleagues are all on the same team, and just like Green’s Warriors, you need to have a competitive spirit to support the company as best you can. Bring energy to your job, projects, and team, and stay focused on high-level performance even when things aren’t going well. But have the expectation that while you’re working hard, both you and your colleagues will maintain a positive attitude, regardless of the outcome.