Adam Witty is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Charleston, South Carolina, and founder and CEO of Advantage | ForbesBooks, the authority marketing specialists in working with business professionals to elevate brands and grow businesses through publishing. Adam has built the company into one of the largest business book publishers in America, serving over 1,000 members in 40 US states and 13 countries. We asked Adam which sports books convey the most valuable leadership lessons. Here's what he shared:
As a young man figuring out how the business world worked, I had the great fortune to count among my mentors Pat Williams, co-founder and senior vice president of the NBA's Orlando Magic. He shared invaluable insight on what makes a team successful, specifically that while a leader is only as good as his or her team, a team can be brought to unimaginable heights with the right leadership.
That's why I turn to the lessons of great coaches as I grow as a leader. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden
Wooden shares profound yet straightforward wisdom acquired throughout his career: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you've made the effort to do the best of which you are capable." He didn't talk winning. He talked continuous improvement. Wooden considered himself first and foremost a teacher. Other lessons: The best leaders are lifelong learners; mistakes, even failure, are permissible as long as they don't result from carelessness; managing egos, both forceful and fragile, is one of the most significant challenges facing any leader; and as a leader you must be committed to what's right rather than who's right. Many sports books on leadership take the easy route with tenuous athletic analogies. This is not one of those. It's the real deal.
2. You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C's to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life by Mike Smith and Jon Gordon
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith led one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history, transforming the Falcons into perennial contenders. Here, he explores the principles that he used and which any leader can adopt to build a winning team--the seven C's: culture, contagious, consistent, communicate, connect, commitment and care. His philosophy's foundation is that the only way to achieve sustained success is to have a culture that focuses on developing people and encourages improvement--to bring out the greatness in others. The book is easy to digest and will help you develop a team that delivers.
3. Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins
Summitt was a phenomenon: A pioneer who built her Tennessee Volunteers into a powerhouse and became one of the winningest coaches in college basketball. In this classic book, Summitt presents her formula for success, the "Definite Dozen System." In each of 12 chapters, she discusses one principle--such as responsibility, discipline or loyalty--and illustrates how to apply it to your situation. Summitt walked the walk when she battled early onset dementia, a battle she lost in 2016. There's not a Fortune 500 CEO alive who couldn't learn from her competitive spirit, winning methodology and ethical excellence.
4. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty
Jackson was called the "zen master" because of how he applied his spirituality to the ego-driven, competitive world of the NBA, turning groups of disconnected, self-centered players into cohesive units characterized by balance in mind, body and spirit. Rather than viewing leadership as a top-down endeavor, Jackson says that to develop a winning team, a leader must cultivate a harmonious and selfless climate of "we" over "me." He describes his methods for helping players grow into team members who could succeed on the basketball court. His zen orientation and mindfulness practices in coaching make his story both unique and compelling.
5. Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership by James Kerr
This one may seem a little obscure for Americans, but this book defies borders. Kerr is a former captain of a rugby team in New Zealand. In this "modern version of Vince Lombardi's guide to coaching," Kerr analyzes the unique culture of one of the world's most successful teams, the New Zealand All Blacks. He shares 15 practical lessons for leadership and business that transformed them into a super-team. Each chapter focuses on one lesson, from character and purpose to sacrifice and ritual. Kerr states that winning teams--in sports or business--employ the same basic tenets: a commitment to a collective cause, individual autonomy, candid communication and a culture in which "leaders create leaders." My favorite lesson is Sweeping the Shed: No individual is bigger than the team, and everyone is responsible for the smallest details, including cleaning the locker room. A great lesson for business leaders.
Last, but not least:
6. Vince Lombardi on Leadership: Life Lessons from a Five-Time NFL Championship Coach by my mentor, Pat Williams
Lombardi is considered by many to be not only the greatest football coach of all time but also the greatest sports coach of all time. Williams interviewed Lombardi's former players, as well as opposing coaches and players, and shares a new understanding of Lombardi's success. Lombardi's mission was to make not just better football players, but better human beings by embodying the seven sides of leadership: vision, communication skills, people skills, character, competence, boldness and a serving heart. By understanding these lessons, Williams creates a vision of how to become a better leader.