The Loving Leader
“You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader, you can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance.” - Steve Shenseki
I really don’t care how many games you win.... I don’t care how many state titles you win.... I don’t care how many awards you win.
The one true indicator of a successful program is a foundation built on love. When I hear coaches and student- athletes talk about their team and I hear the word love I know there will be success. It might not be in the form of a trophy, media coverage or front-page headlines, but nonetheless success!
In my years as an athletics administrator all the great coaches I have had the opportunity to work with have one irrefutable quality that transcends winning. That quality is love! Sometimes I feel that in coaching love is often times discarded and considered “soft coaching”. I honestly believe that coaching with love is one of the toughest ways to coach today's student-athlete. Love doesn’t always mean rainbows and butterflies. Love requires discipline, honesty and the occasional heated conversation. Coaching with love requires sacrifice, commitment and consistency.
Some of the most emotional reunions are that of coaches and their players. The overwhelming theme amidst all of the success, the trophies, bright lights and headlines is love! Love for their Team & Love for their Coach!
Throughout the years I’ve heard so many stories about the coach and student-athlete relationship. The stories that stick are built in the relationship, not the extrinsic rewards of sport.
“Coach made sure I had food to eat. My mom always had to work late and Coach would always make sure I had a ride home and something to eat.”
“Coach helped me with my homework. I was really struggling in math and he made sure I understood the importance of graduating.”
“Coach came to my dad’s funeral when I was a freshman and he always made sure I was doing all right even when I went off to college.”
“Coach came to the hospital when my sister was in a car accident. He stayed there all night.”
“Coach made me understand that hard work and commitment in the pursuit of excellence was key to my future success.”
“I loved playing for Coach.”
Very few of the comments had to do with coaching strategy, preparation or even motivation. It was all built with the foundation of love. A coach's love of players, whether they were all-state, all-conference or the student-athlete that never played a minute.
Any great leader, whether it’s a coach, teacher, athletics administrator or CEO, leads from the heart. That means being strong yet vulnerable, consistent yet flexible and most importantly, they love those they lead!
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” -John Maxwell
We all are flawed and at times are not always great, but our ability to refocus our purpose, reflect and move forward is important in our daily lives in order to lead in the service of others. Reflection is key to one’s purpose. On a daily basis it is easy to fall into negative thoughts and actions. Frustration and negativity can tear us down and cause us to lose our focus. At the end of the day, as coaches and athletics administrators our purpose is to develop young people. To help them achieve far beyond their expectations.
That is why reflection on your day is so important. How could I have handled situations differently? How could I have better served others? How can I be a better leader? What is my Why? As coaches and administrators we have such a profound effect on our student-athletes, positive or negative.
Throughout my career I have thought back on all the situations I could have handled better and regrettably made a negative impact instead of a positive impact. Now as I reflect on those situations, they are part of my journey and I have learned greatly from my many failures.
One of my favorite stories is about Amos Alonzo Stagg, legendary football coach. After playing in the national championship game, Coach Stagg was asked by a reporter, “What do you think of your team, Coach?” Coach Stagg simply responded, “I’ll let you know in 20 years.” Coach Stagg knew over half a century ago that his legacy and impact would touch the lives of his players far beyond their playing career.
Sports is truly an amazing platform to teach our student- athletes about the game of life. Teaching them grit, determination, how to conquer adversity and the bond that is created on a team based in love.
“Who said a good coach can change a game? A great coach can change a life.” - John Wooden
As an athletics administrator, Leading with Love means knowing and caring about what inspires and empowers people. It's about caring enough to know what is important to them and helping them succeed. Leading with Love is the key to leadership success. To lead effectively, you must love the people you are leading.
Advice from the DNA AD Pool
Authentic - “The requirement of being real and transparent is real. Our coaches, administrators, patrons and students want us to be real, genuine and authentic. People have a knack of seeing through fake. It is imperative that athletic administrators be authentic. We aren’t in this business to make a lot of money, we are in this profession to make a difference in the lives of others” Dr. Dustin Smith, EdD C.M.A.A., Director of Athletic Operations and Student Activities, Greenwood Public Schools
Inclusive - “All means ALL! Just like kids don’t get to pick their parents, parents don’t get to pick their kids. We are called to include all that may be in our area of serving. Social, economic, racial or educational level does not determine our level of inclusion. All means all. We don’t get to pick who we serve or include. Everyone in our serve deserves our very best.” Dr. Dustin Smith, EdD C.M.A.A., Director of Athletic Operations and Student Activities, Greenwood Public Schools
Committed - “An AD should always be committed to being better than they were the day before. That commitment springboards your coaches, athletes and parents to also be better. That commitment must start from the AD so that they can show everyone else around them that they care.” Matt Weis, West Delaware Athletics Director
Nurturing - “I believe Nurturing is something most ADs would love to have the time to do but unfortunately don't always have that opportunity as they are consumed with day to day ‘Management’ activities. Being able to spend time working with their coaches, making them better, more attentive and good at developing relationships and improving the character of their athletes. Spend time asking tough questions and providing valuable insight on how coaches can be better. Finally, to listen without necessarily expecting to provide an answer to the challenges coaches are facing.” Mike Henson, Osage Athletics Director
Servant Leadership - “Servant leadership is essential for any AD. Knowing that everything you do is bigger than the person. Seeing the benefits of giving of yourself for the betterment of everyone involved. ‘The more you give, the more you live’ is a quote I heard and learned from the late Dr. Ray Pugh while working at Y-Camp during my college years. This quote embodies true servant leadership.” Dale Ludwig, Clear Lake Athletics Director
Servant Leadership - :DNA carries genetic instructions for the development, functioning and growth of all known organisms and ironic as it sounds, I believe that Athletic Directors carry out those same instructions for all of their coaches and students. As complicated as DNA is, the role of an AD is equally complicated. If you are not organized, supportive, energetic and dedicated, you have no right to take up the career. However, those ADs that rise to the top and make lasting impacts on those around them are true servant leaders who are collaborative with their colleagues and always honest to all of their community members.” Nick DeForest C.M.A.A., The American International School of Vienna
“Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work.” - James Kouzes & Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge
Servant Leader – “Being a servant leader and trying to learn from those around you is key to growing as an AD. We teach our students to be long-life learners so we should model this behavior. Leading is all about building others. Helping others to develop their unique potential is so important as a leader.” Jeffrey Koops C.M.A.A., Director of Athletics International School of Ulaanbaatar
Love - “There are really only 2 emotions, Love and Fear. All other feelings, like hate, joy, depression, frustration, and apathy stem from these two. As an AD, it is crucial to project Love toward all aspects of our job, and everyone we interact with. If you cannot love the unlovable, love challenges, and love the grind, then you are in the wrong profession.” Carl Semler, Lubbock High School Athletics Director
Triple Threat - “Being an AD isn't just about administering athletics, but rather, it's about truly living a passion for combining education and athletics together. The energy necessary to build programs and people is a gift you administer every single day, and the impact made lasts lifetimes. AD’s are true Triple Threat Leaders everyday - Adding Value, Building Relationships, and Creating Opportunities for those they serve!” Dr. Scott Grant, Triple Threat Leadership
Energy, Enthusiasm, Engagement = IMPACT
Growing up I always knew I would be involved in education in one way, shape or form. My parents were both teachers and my dad was a basketball coach, so my life was spent on gym floors and in classrooms. I couldn't have imagined it any other way. There is something special about having parents that are teachers, as you see first hand the "opportunities for impact" from a very young age.
As I continued through college and into my first teaching and coaching experience, I began to become more fascinated with leadership principles and the opportunities EVERYONE has to make sincere impacts each day. When I became an athletics director I knew I faced challenges and would fail at things, but you better believe I was going to make an impact every day I walked into that building!
I have been extremely blessed for my "impact makers," those people who have helped shape me as a person over the past 39 years (yikes, hurts to actually write it). I can only hope that at the end of my lifetime I can look back and be proud of what matters most, the positive impacts I had on others during the time I was allowed.
Triple Threat Leadership can make more of an impact on your students, athletes, teams, school and organizations through educational programming which includes personal branding, leadership development, positive social media strategy, and much, much more!!
It's time... they need it, they want it, they deserve it.
Be Awesome Today!
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” - Ernest Hemingway
Know, Go & Show the Way - John C. Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
This is the essence of leadership. An athletics director has vision and can see the path others might not be able to envision. A leader is self-motivated, self-disciplined, passionate and courageous enough to do the hard work necessary to make their vision a reality. Leaders constantly communicate their vision to others, showing them the way. Lastly, a truly great leader loves those they lead.
We covered a lot of ground in this book.
The 12 characteristics of an effective athletics administrator are:
- Emotional intelligence
The good news is that you can grow in all of these areas. You can become an effective athletics administrative leader. The more you focus on growing in these areas, the better an administrator you’ll become and the more people will want to follow you. As more people follow you, you’ll have more opportunities to grow as a leader.
It’s a powerful journey that can cause you to develop and grow as an effective athletics director.
So, don’t wait any longer. Start leading today. Others are waiting to follow you.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” - Ernest Hemingway
About Scott Garvis
Scott Garvis has been a leader and innovator in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics development and fundraising for more than 25 years – as an athletics director, coach, association board member, adviser and editorial contributor.
Scott has a record of excellence as Athletics Director, Director of Activities and Assistant Principal, having led the athletics departments at six high schools or school districts in three states. He has achieved unparalleled success at all levels of high school athletics: large public school districts, a small public high school, a private school, and with state and national athletics administrator associations.