Becoming a Leader Worth Following

The most effective leaders are those who become the type of person that others willingly follow.

Most of us know the type of leader that we would be willing to follow—intuitively we are drawn to these type of people. We might not be able to give a detailed description, but we all know a true leader when we experience one.

Transformative leaders have a presence, they have an aura about them that embodies the principles they stand for and demonstrates the values they preach.

In assessing our own leadership the challenge is clear: How do I become the type of leader others are willing to follow?

Transformative leadership is only possible when a leader develops the necessary habits, dispositions, and mindset that allows their effectiveness to be unleashed.


Start with You

Great leadership is more caught than taught. Simply put, your habits, dispositions, and character are what define your leadership in the eyes of the people that follow you. For better or worse the team is going to take on the personality and habits of the leader.

Leaders have a huge responsibility then to become the type of people that they want the people in their organization to imitate.

Effective leadership always, “starts with you.”  As a leader if you want the people around you to be self-controlled, selfless, full of integrity and passionate about serving others then YOU have to embody those qualities on a daily basis.

Remember leadership is more caught than taught, which means that the people on your team are going to follow your example more than what you say. You need to look in the mirror and become the type of person for others that you are asking others to become for you!


Focus on Them

As leader’s become the right people for others, they will inevitably inspire those around them to become the people they were created to be. A relational approach to team-building and leadership should be the natural extension of any leader’s commitment to becoming a leader worth following.

No one follows someone they can’t relate to and no one follows a leader they don’t feel connected to. A core requirement in becoming a “leader worth following” implies that my growth as a leader is not a self-serving exercise, but is founded on the desire to help others reach their potential.

The effectiveness of your leadership is tied to how well you marry these two approaches—“Starting with You” and “Focusing on Them.” World champion coach Gregg Popovich offers insight into how he leads his players:

“I think relationship building helps them want to play for you, for the program, for their teammates. Beyond that from a totally selfish point of view, I think I get most of my satisfaction from that. Sure winning championships is great, but it fades quickly.”

Gregg Popovich

Leaders understand that a genuine concern for the people around them is the relational building blocks that every great team is built on. Popovich does this by making an effort to build a relationship with his players on and off the court: the entire scope of their lives becomes a matter of importance, not just how many points they can score or assists they can dish out.

When leaders show that they care, strong teams are built and lives are transformed.

We can all get started by growing into a leader worth following by developing two simple habits. Here are behaviors that manifest “starting with yourself” and “focusing on them.”

  1. Daily Nourishment

“Starting with you” begins with building a sound mind, body, and spirit every day.

Every day find a time, a place, and a resource—this could be anything from a book, podcast, sermon, or article—that feeds your mind and heart with the truths of transformational leadership. Write those three things down right now.

  1. Time
  2. Place
  3. Resource


  1. Relational Approach

Write down one person you want to connect with and build into as a leader this week. Invite them to lunch or schedule a phone call. Be intentional and focus

on building that relationship this week by showing interest in who they are as a person.


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The Arete Manifesto – Why we Exist

The Arete Manifesto 

What is Arete Hoops? Who are we? What do we stand for? Why do we exist? Why should you care about what we have to say?

Put simply, Arete Hoops believes basketball can change your life because it has changed ours. We think basketball and sports have serious power: they have the ability to transform you, shape you, and mold you into a better basketball player and person. We want to give anyone who will listen the chance to consider these ideas because we want to give everyone a chance to make their dreams come true.

Our approach to basketball is a philosophy, a specific set of ideals. We have crafted this ideology through personal experience, by making observations in our lives, and building on the ideas of thinkers who express these ideas much better than we do.

Our Mission is Simple: We think the world can be changed through the game of basketball. We know there are coaches and players who want to make a difference. We know leaders are powerful. We want to question the status quo. We want to think differently. We want to consider the traditional ideas of how to approach the game of basketball and take the path less traveled.

If you choose to read it, this is the Arete Hoops philosophy; our manifesto, the good stuff, the nuts and bolts of what we believe. We hope these ideas resonate with you and ultimately help change you for the better. We hope you make a decision to abandon a life of mediocrity and start walking the path of excellence. If you have the desire to…

  • Walk the path less traveled
  • Commit yourself to an uncommon standard of excellence
  • Develop your leadership capability
  • Question the status quo
  • Approach the game of basketball differently
  • Make a Difference


Then take 5 minutes and consider these ideas and make a determination for yourself. Download the PDF below to get started.

The Path of Excellence is open to anyone who decides to take it…will you start your journey today???


The Arete Manifesto

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How Open Communication Changes your Team’s Culture

You can find the original publication of this article on the Team Snap Blog

Managing the Complexity

The dynamics between players, coaches, and parents have become notoriously difficult to manage, and understandably so. The complexity that results from the intermingling of these relationships is due to the very nature of sports and competition. Generally speaking, the coaches agenda is centred around the team, a players agenda is centred around themselves, and a parents agenda is centred on their child’s wellbeing. This is not to say that a player can’t care about their team, or coaches always disregard the wellbeing of their players, but usually this is where priorities lie. To put it another way, the allegiances of all parties involved are usually directed (and rightfully so) towards their primary interests. These allegiances can cause coaches to be insensitive, players to show disrespect, and parents to overstep their bounds.

In youth sports, the majority of this friction could be laid to rest if all players received one specific thing from their coaches and parents. This one thing is a mindset as much as anything else, and if all future decisions can be measured against this principle, everyone will benefit. Players simply need: honest, truthful, supportive communication from their coach and parents. This may sound simple, but the impact can be dramatic. Here are three ways that this type of communication will have a positive effect on everyone involved.




Realistic Expectations

Sports (especially when you have to deal with tryouts, playing-time, and other similar issues) can be a great learning and growth experience for many kids. However, I believe one of the biggest reasons athletes can have a negative experience with their coach or team is because their expectations are never met since expectations are never set. If an athlete walks into a team with a particular set of expectations, and the coach never communicates his/her expectations with that player, inevitably someone will be disappointed.

Players simply need: honest, truthful, supportive communication from their coach and parents

In my opinion, truthful communication about a coach’s expectations for both individual players and the team is one of the most important moves that diffuses toxic feelings between players, parents and coaches. A coach should lay out expectations at the beginning of the season with the parents, as well as during the course of the season with the players. Players roles can change and expectations can shift with the ebb and flow of the season and a coach should do their best to be on the same page with the players regarding these issues.


Truth is the Best Medicine

Truth is the best medicine when it comes to potentially toxic communication in youth sports. If a coach fails to communicate to a player how he sees them fitting into the team, then the player is left to patch together a picture of his role from the mysterious verbal and non-verbal cues he sees in practice and games. This guessing game can drive players crazy and undermine a coaches credibility.

Truth is the best medicine when it comes to potentially toxic communication in youth sports.

Although it is more difficult on the front-end to sit down with a player and tell them they might not be seeing a lot of playing time, ultimately this is the healthiest type of communication. This removes the ability of parents and players to blame the coach for any kind of deception or misconstrued information.

In the same way, if a coach delivers truthful feedback, it is the job of the parents to do their best to honestly assess how their child could improve. Parents can offer feedback without undermining the authority of the coach and should do their best to empower their children to improve through hard work and skill development. The truth can sting at times, but ultimately it is the best stimulus for growth and character building.



Positive Opportunities for Growth 

Every directive from a coach to a player should come with a caveat on ways and opportunities to improve (should the player choose to). Positive communication begins and ends with the idea that regardless of how much playing time a player gets, that their inherent worth is never tied to performance. Sports are so much bigger than minutes played, or baskets scored because they teach us about ourselves. Opportunities for personal growth abound in the world of youth sports; but coaches and parents alike need to prioritise providing these opportunities for their athletes regardless of skill level. When honest, truthful, and supportive communication becomes the norm, everybody wins.

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Building “Spurs” Culture

Creating Culture

 “The individual becomes the culture and the culture becomes the individual. It becomes hard to deconstruct.”

– Louisa Thomas 

“But to have that dedication and that fortitude to come back every year and try to be the best team you can be by playoff time, it takes character and toughness and that’s all embodied in the players that we have…You can save yourself a lot of problems by trying to do that work early rather than get a guy in your program and then say, ‘We gotta get rid of this guy…First I depend on the fact that bringing them in, we believe they have character as such that they care about the group more than themselves as individual players.”

– Gregg Popovich

The San Antonio Spurs have given us one of the most powerful recent examples about the importance of culture in buildinglarge_5287228411 championship teams. This past June, the Spurs took down the Miami Heat in five games to secure their 5th championship in the Tim Duncan era. Duncan entered the NBA in the 1997-98 season and has lead the spurs to a 5-1 record in Finals appearances while amassing 3 finals MVP’s and 2 regular season MVP’s. Duncan has epitomized the selfless, team-oriented brand of basketball that has captured the imagination of millions of basketball fans and thrust the entire franchise into the national spotlight.

Ironically, the spotlight is the place where the Spurs feel least comfortable. There are countless superlatives that could be used to describe the culture of the Spurs, but the core of the Spurs cultural identity can be summed up in two words: servant leadership. The DNA of Spurs culture was created as a result of thousands of personal decisions – from players to coaches to the front office – to defer personal achievement for the greater good of the organization. For our purposes, we will define culture as “shared consciousness and purpose to achieve a common mission”.


The Priority of Culture

In the Spurs hierarchy of priorities, fostering a winning culture remains their most important objective. Before they decide their offensive sets or defensive schemes, the Spurs understand any chance of success hinges on their ability to recruit players who fit their culture. The Spurs create a cultural expectation for everyone in the organization, and then find players who fit that criteria. The culture makes demands on the player to conform to it’s ethos instead of players driving culture.

Many organizations flip this process by recruiting people primarily based on talent with the consideration of culture taking a back seat. Often, teams will inadvertently amass a conglomerate of conflicting personalities, goals, and value systems in an effort to secure large amounts of talent. The confluence of opposing ideologies and varying levels of character can make it difficult to create championship level culture. It is always more difficult to make the players fit the system than to allow the system to select the players.

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The Expectations of Culture

Think about a fisherman. A good fisherman will understand what type of fish he wants to catch. He will think about the type of water he is fishing in, how the weather will affect his fishing, and any other outlying factors that could affect his fish catching ability. Once this information is compiled, he will decide what type of bait to use. By assessing his surroundings and deciding what kind of system to use, the fisherman has created cultural expectations that limit what lures he throws into the water. It would be counterproductive for him to use lures that didn’t fit with his environment.

In the same way, the Spurs have allowed their environment to limit the types of players they recruit – which means they don’t always get the most talented players – believing that the collective culture will outperform individual talent over the long haul. Teams have the opportunity to achieve prolonged excellence when their best players embody the values of their culture. Organizations become standards of entire industries when they prioritize “who” over “what”, “where”, and “how”. Culture is not a disembodied concept that requires charismatic leadership or grandiose vision casting. Culture beings and ends with people. To borrow a phrase from Jim Collins, leadership starts with getting the right people on the bus.


“In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

– Jim Collins


Culture will be created one way or another on your team. The question remains then what kind of values will typify the culture of your organization? Will your culture – more explicitly, the teams shared consciousness and purpose to achieve a common mission – be marked by selflessness, character, servitude, and humility or will the destructive behaviors of selfishness, greed, and egoism control your locker room. What kind of culture do you want to be a part of?


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