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Friday, February 24, 2012

Positive Leadership: Lessons from Linsanity

In the US today, Jeremy Lin is the man-of-the-moment, the new New York Knick Rock Star. Lin’s face is everywhere. The Knicks point guard has taken the world by storm. He has led the Knicks to a winning record since he became a starter.  His highlights include hitting a game-winning 3 pointer at the buzzer to beat the Toronto Raptors and nationally televised wins over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers and the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. During this time Lin became the first NBA player to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts. Ever.

But here’s the part of the story that bothers us: Many in the media are portraying Jeremy Lin as an “overnight LINsation,” as ESPN put it.

Let’s look at what Lin’s “overnight” really looked like.

Lin said he dreamed of playing in the NBA as a child. There’s a You Tube of 6 year-old Jeremy Lin showing off his dribbling skills. The product of two 5-foot-6 engineers, most laughed when he laid out his career choice.

As a high school senior, he led Palo Alto (CA) High School to a state championship over nationally ranked #1 Mater Dei High School. His coach was quoted as saying that the school was so well known for its academics that when the players returned with the trophy, they were reminded “how well the robotics club” had done the same week.

Lin sent out 25 DVDs and resumes to colleges, yet received no college scholarship offers – not even from Stanford, which was less than a mile from Lin’s High School! He chose to play basketball for Harvard. Ivy League schools offer no athletic scholarships.

In his junior year Lin was the only NCAA Division 1 player to rank in the top ten in his conference in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocked shots, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three-point shot percentage.

Lin’s name was not called in the 2010 NBA draft.

He signed with his hometown favourite, Golden State Warriors but spent most of the 2010 season on the inactive list.

Three times that year he was sent down to the developmental league then called back up to the Warriors. 

He finished his rookie season averaging 2.6 points per game playing in 29 games for the Warriors.

Lin sought the advice of coaches on his weaknesses, then hired a shooting coach during the off season and worked hard to improve his shot.  

On the first day of the 2011 training camp the Warriors waived Lin. The Houston Rockets claimed him off waivers three days later.

Lin played seven minutes in two pre-season games for the Rockets. The Rockets waived Lin on Christmas Eve.

On December 27th the Knicks signed Lin as a back-up. Three weeks later, he was sent back to the developmental league.

On January 23rd Lin was called back up by the Knicks.

On February 4th Lin had 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in a victory over the Nets.

Then the LINsanity started!

Look how long it took Jeremy Lin to become an “overnight” success. Look at that roller coaster of emotions. No scholarship offers? Not drafted? Cut on Christmas Eve? Yes, Lin admitted to crying. Yes, Lin admits that he thought about quitting.

The Roman philosopher Seneca once stated, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

The problem is most of us see a guy like Lin and focus on the eye-popping lightning storm of his success. We don’t want to look at the ugly, monotonous, boring dust storm that was his preparation.

The second part of the Jeremy Lin story that inspires us is that he kept fighting and working until he found the right situation for his talents. He had to land in the right environment with the right coach to become a “sensation.” Mike D’Antoni was indeed the right coach to use the skill set that Lin had, but it took timing and misfortune of having stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire out for Lin to be given room to operate in his own style. Ironically, people are now wondering if superstar Anthony is the one that can fit in with the formerly unknown Jeremy Lin.

The lessons from Jeremy Lin’s story are many. Believe… Persevere... Practice… Improve… Believe… Persevere… Practice… Improve…

And in the end you have to find the right place, the right time, the right environment, the right coach that will allow you to unleash your greatest potential.

So if you are not there keep searching, because only you can find the place and the people that set you on your path to success!

Story time is over, now this is about you as a leader.

Who is your Jeremy Lin?  Who on your team have you “decided” on?  We are not talking about your high potential person on that list in the succession plan.  We are talking about your third stringer, the person that you “know” will always be a marginal performer.

What do you really know?

Have you given them reins and a chance to perform?

Or are you stifling them with your assessment of their potential?

Jeremy Lin is a basketball player. He has, and is, working hard at his craft. He certainly hasn’t given up or felt sorry for himself, but this story is as much about coaches and scouts and leaders as is it about Jeremy.

The best leaders look for and see the potential in their team members.  If you don’t see it, you won’t give people an opportunity to use it, develop it, and move towards that potential.

Do you see third string guards or Jeremy Lins?

Be careful what you look for, you are very likely to find it.