I'm into March Madness for two reasons: I love college hoops and I enjoy observing a coach's leadership style.

The coaches are the CEOs of their teams, and, like CEOs in the business world, display great, not-so-great, and just plain horrible management decisions.

Even though the Final Four have been selected, I intently watched all 64 coaches throughout the tourney and focused on these eight, and each provided me with a leadership lesson:

1.) Complacency kills. The SFA 'Jacks had Notre Dame by five points with 90 seconds remaining. But, rather than continue the aggressive style that had gotten his team the lead, Coach Underwood slowed the squad to a crawl, and told them to take as much time off the clock as possible. They did and it killed their cadence and momentum. ND came back to win the game by one point at the buzzer.

Lesson: Keep the pedal to the metal and never, ever embrace complacency. Too many one-time high flyers of the past slowed down the pace only to find themselves subsequently buried by a nimbler disruptor (Think: MySpace, Blackberry and AOL).

2.) Keep fine-tuning your creation. Gonzaga's Mark Few adapts to his players, not vice versa. He prides himself on constantly tinkering to mix and match the strengths and weaknesses of his players, and apply them accordingly.

Lesson: My firm's survived and thrived by unknowingly applying Coach Few's views. We constantly strive to match an individual's specific strengths with a client's exact needs (as opposed to simply assigning a random team).

3.) Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. UNC Coach Roy Williams has once again led his Tar Heels deep into the tournament. Williams credits his success to a relentless work ethic. "We've had 91 practices and we've harped every day about getting better and better and better. And if we do get better, we'll play our best ball at the end of the year."

Lesson: While there is no end of the year for entrepreneurs, the best way to instill a strong work ethic is to lead from behind by rolling up your sleeves and working just as hard as your team.

4.) Stay in the moment. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games last year for a variety of dirty deeds; the Orange lost five of their last six games and prospects for this season looked grim. But Boeheim put the past behind him, forged a new sense of confidence in this year's squad and has now advanced deep into the tournament.

Lesson: Every business endures down times. The trick to bouncing back is to remain in the moment. In 2006, two of our largest clients promised huge budgetary increases but instead disappeared. We put the past behind us, mapped out strategies to attract new business and posted an 18 percent profit in 2007.

5.) Win as a team and lose as a team. Tom Izzo's Spartans were picked by many to win the 2016 NCAA tourney outright. But, Izzo's lackadaisical squad was completely outplayed, and outhustled, by a hungry group of student athletes from Middle Tennessee State University. In a post-game press conference, Izzo apologized to his team, and assumed full responsibility.

Lesson: It's easy to bask in the afterglow of a huge win. But, an entrepreneur also has to stand alongside her troops and shoulder full responsibility for a setback as well.

6.) Grace under pressure. Villanova's Jay Wright dresses meticulously and projects a cool, collected confidence from the sidelines. He encourages his players to adopt the same professional, non-trash-talking approach in their conduct.

Lesson: The key to managing a major business crisis is to maintain your cool. When your business hits a serious speed bump, employees look to you for clues as to the health of their job and the organization.

7.) Carpe diem. While SFA's decision to change their style cost them the game, ND's Mike Brey immediately capitalized on his opponent's mistake. Brey seized the moment, amped up his strategy and won.

Lesson: The best business executives sense opportunities to expand an existing relationship and seize the moment. We've grown countless relationships by offering a solution to a client's problem with another firm. Since we've already established trust, we're often able to "Brey" a competitor and take away their part of the client's business.

8.) Caveat Management-by-fear. Indiana Coach Tom Crean is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of this year's tournament. He is at once calm and communicative and then shouts and screams at an athlete in front of his teammates and a viewing audience of millions.

Lesson: If someone should commit a serious mistake, I ask for a closed door meeting to address and, hopefully, fix, the issue at hand. I believe people quit bosses, not companies. It's OK to show compassion. In fact, I think it's a competitive advantage.

My pick to win the tournament? Villanova. But, hey, what does a PR guy know about college basketball?

 

 

 

Published on: Mar 28, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.