Drawing on over a decade spent as a college basketball coach and original research conducted on what leadership styles and behaviors help athletic coaches be successful, Lead Like a Pro provides the resources for coaches to transform leadership practice and reach their full potential. This book is for all leaders who want to gain insight into different leadership techniques and develop a strong leadership style that fits their personal values and beliefs.
We chatted with Matthew about what leadership training looks like, what professionals in other fields can take away from this book, and more.
How did your experience as a college basketball coach inspire you to write a book about leadership?
When I was a young college basketball coach, I spent a lot of time watching other more experienced and successful coaches. I would always try to model my leadership behaviors after what I saw them doing, which led to very mixed and inconsistent results. For a long time, I struggled with the feeling that I wasn’t being authentic and that I didn’t actually know what my leadership style was.
Later in my coaching career, I enrolled in the Educational Leadership Doctoral program at Chicago State (where I was working as a coach at the time), and over the course of my time in that program gained foundational leadership knowledge and the tools to practice the leadership behaviors that aligned best with my personal values and beliefs, not someone else’s. My leadership journey and Doctoral research led me to realize that coaches, at all levels of sports, were not receiving the necessary leadership education and training. This realization, as well as my own leadership experiences as a coach, were the inspiration for my book. I wanted to provide athletic coaches with the leadership tools they need to be effective and successful coaches for their athletes and team.
What do you think are some of the essential tools and resources that coaches must have to be successful leaders? What does this leadership training look like?
Coaches need to have a strong foundation in leadership knowledge in order to determine the best leadership style and behaviors for them to practice. They also need to understand the importance of making intentional leadership choices so that the leadership style and behaviors they choose to practice align with their personal values and beliefs. Lastly, coaches need to learn how to practice the leadership style and behaviors they believe are right for them. I structured my book in this way so that I first provided coaches with foundational leadership knowledge, and then used examples from my experiences to show coaches the positive and negative effects their leadership choices can have on their athletes and team.
What can other readers who are not coaches take away from your book? How are the leadership techniques you offer in Lead Like A Pro applicable to them?
I am a strong believer in the gathering of information and different perspectives. I am always reading books and articles or attending webinars on leadership topics unrelated to sports. There is so much that coaches can learn about leadership practice from people who work in other professions, like teaching, business, retail, etc.
Likewise, I believe that there is that same opportunity for people who are not athletic coaches to learn about leadership from my book and see a different perspective. I hope they discover an approach to leadership that they would not normally have the opportunity to have known if they solely read books on leadership related to their specific profession.
How do you think the recent NCAA name, image and likeness policy will affect how coaches approach their team? Will this change the attitude and leadership behind sports?
I think the new name, image, and likeness policy will lead to more emphasis on the individual athlete and potentially take away from the team concept. With certain members of the team receiving endorsements while others are not, this could lead to rifts or other types of negative feelings within the team. I definitely think coaches will have to look for ways to adjust their leadership practice by emphasizing a team-first mentality through servant leadership, or by promoting direct and open dialogue so that issues don’t fester under the surface and erode the team culture. Additionally, I think that charisma, a key aspect of transformational leadership, will also be key for coaches because it will help them develop strong individual relationships with their athletes. This will be something that the coaches can call upon later when they feel like any one individual might be rising above the rest of the team.
What do you hope this book will accomplish for coaches and leaders, in sports and in other fields?
My hope is that after reading this book readers will be firmly committed to the idea that they are a leader, and that every decision, big or small, that they make for their team or organization is an act of leadership. I also hope that readers will be inspired by the book to be more intentional about their leadership choices and continue to look for ways to learn about leadership practice and improve themselves as a leader.
My last, and greatest, hope is that readers will see that there is no such thing as a perfect leader and that there is no perfect leadership style that will guarantee success. I want readers to know that if they are constantly working to practice the leadership style and behaviors that align with their personal values and beliefs, then they are a successful leader who is doing everything they can to best lead their team or organization.