Kobe Bryant - A Leader's Perspective

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Kobe Bryant - A Leader's Perspective

Black Belt Leadership
Published by John Terry - The Black Belt Leader in Leadership · 13 February 2020
Tags: beablackbeltleader
Kobe Bryant - A Leader's Perspective
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

When you think of the superstars of basketball, Kobe Bryant ranks among the elite. Joining the NBA immediately after graduating high school, playing for the same team (the LA Lakers) for 20 years and helping to lead that team to 5 world championships, Kobe was truly a world-class performer on and off the court.

John Griffin, Vice President of Communications & People Integration with The John Maxwell Company, recently discussed Kobe's work-ethic on a call. I learned from John that Kobe would show up 2 hours early to practice, with the intent of making 500 to 1,000 individual shots before he was done. After the "regular" practice was concluded, he would encourage his teammates to stick around and play "One-on-One" games to 100 points.

My son, Joshua, a walking sports encyclopedia, reminded me that Kobe would often start practice as early as 4 AM, practicing not only his shots, but head fakes, ball control, passing drills, hand and foot movements, and shooting from all over the court, often practicing 6-7 hours a day (or longer). He mentally and physically rehearsed every aspect of the game during practice until it became second nature.

When asked about his work ethic and the intensity of his workouts, Kobe noted, "I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses."

My mentor, John Maxwell, says the greatest form of leadership is SELF-LEADERSHIP. Kobe understood to lead his team, he first had to lead himself. He could not ask others to do what he was unwilling to do himself - so he lead by example.

Kobe also understood that leaders are lifetime learners. From an early age, he committed to perpetual improvement and throughout his career continued to hone his incredible skills. John Griffin reminded me of the time when Kobe had about a millimeter of the soles of his signature shoes shaved off, as that slight weight adjustment allowed him to react 1/100th of a second faster. He was intentional about becoming a better version of himself every single day and held himself accountable to the process required to make that happen.

Kobe understood that leaders not only develop themselves but they also develop the leaders around them. In addition to their scheduled practice times together, his "One-on-One" sessions with his teammates were intended to not only improve their individual skills but their ability to learn to play together, encourage one another, and pursue a dream bigger than themselves. Kobe said, "The important thing is that your teammates have to know you're pulling for them and you really want them to be successful."

On the court, and off the court, Kobe understood he was living a life that others would emulate. He made mistakes, as we all do, and he admitted to them. He was open to hearing and learning from others, and continually asked questions of other great players and leaders. And he learned to take learning seriously, but not to take himself too seriously. When asked about his role as a leader, Kobe said, "The most important thing is to try and inspire people so they can be great at whatever they want to do."

As Kobe matured, he went from talking about his achievements to talking about his struggles. He said he would rather share his challenges and struggles to help others going through the same thing. Kobe understood there would be ups and downs in his career, and in life. He shared his struggles, and what he learned from them, and we all could relate to this superstar athlete who in many ways was "just like us."

Leaders are passionate about what they do, and Kobe was no exception. They pursue with passion what energizes their souls, knowing that anything worthwhile is always an uphill struggle. Yet he balanced his passion for sports excellence with his passion for his family. And after his career was over, he continued to live life with passion toward the sport that gave him so much and continued to be a leader in life as he poured into his family and the causes that he wanted to make a difference in.

Kobe left us all too soon but left us with a model of the endless pursuit of excellence in every area of his life. Kobe understood leadership is a journey, not a destination. He refused to be content with the status quo but kept moving forward, growing, maturing, learning, and leading by example. Toward the end of his career, Kobe noted that it is in times when you struggle to move forward to do what's necessary to grow or to accomplish a goal or task, and you do it anyway, that's when you're living the dream.

Kobe led by example...because that's what leaders do. They lead.

Thanks, Mamba, for modeling leadership on and off the court! You inspired a generation of leaders to learn to lead themselves as they chase after the endless pursuit of excellence.

Your leadership, on and off the court, will be missed.


2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.   

Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.

For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at: www.beablackbeltleader.com.  

If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting www.DunamisFactor.com.

John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.

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