4 Leadership Lessons From a Coach, a Dream and a Miracle

This is a guest post by Dave Arnold. Dave is an author, speaker, leader, and blogger. He is the author of Pilgrims of the Alley: Living out Faith in Displacement (Urban Loft Publishing) You can also follow him on Twitter.

Herb Brooks was an incredible leader. He was a coach with a vision, a vision that led a group of college kids to beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey and go on to win the gold in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Deemed the “Miracle on Ice,” the United States’ win against the Soviets is considered one of the greatest sports moments in history. Herb Brooks wasn’t afraid to push his players, to help them believe they had what it takes. As a result, his team beat the greatest hockey team in the world. As I look back at my life, the leaders who made the most impact on me were the ones who believed in me enough to push me. They pushed me out of my comfort zone. They helped me become a better leader and, ultimately, a better person. As a leader, one of the greatest ways to impact people is by helping them believe they have what it takes. So what does that look like? Here are four lessons we can learn from Herb Brooks and his vision:

See

1. Look at people’s potential, at what they could be. Herb Brooks did this well. He not only saw a group of talented hockey players from Boston and Minnesota, he saw a team. He saw potential. He believed if he pushed enough and inspired enough, he could pull out their greatness. And that’s exactly what happened.

Encourage

2. Never underestimate the power of encouragement. As leaders, it’s easy to fall into the mode of expecting people to do certain tasks or fulfill certain roles. This is especially true in organizations. But when we are intentional about encouraging people, noticing them, and telling them they’re appreciated, it motivates them to want to keep going and give their best.

What Moment Will Change Your Life?

A single moment can change your life.  A single decision can have a lasting impact.  A single relationship can define you in ways you would never expect.

That single moment happened in Laura Schroff’s life over 25 years ago.  She was a successful advertising executive living in Manhattan.  Her life was full and her schedule even more so.

Crossing 56th street one day, she heard a panhandler’s voice.  “Excuse me, lady, I’m really hungry.  Do you have any spare change?”  She dismissed the request, moving quickly through the intersection.

Somewhere in the middle of the intersection is where that moment happened for Laura.  That decision.  Where the relationship started.  Laura stopped, turned around and went back to meet the panhandler.  His name was Maurice, and he was only 11 years old.  She said she didn’t want to give him money, but she would buy him some food at McDonald’s.

For many, that would be it.  A single act of goodwill.  Not for Laura and Maurice.  The one meal became a weekly dinner for years.  Their relationship has continued to grow over the past twenty-five years.

Encourage Someone Today

Imagine waking up one morning.  You turn off the alarm clock and you see a little note.  It’s from your spouse.

It says, “You are the best!  Thank you for a wonderful weekend.  I’m the luckiest person alive to be married to you!”

You check your email and there’s a note from someone who works with you.  “I just wanted to drop you a note to say that your work on our project made all the difference.  You really nailed it.”

You drive to work and someone stops you and says, “I’m glad to see you.  Just seeing you makes me feel good.  Thanks for all you do for me.”

Rather far-fetched?  Can’t possibly imagine that scenario, right? 

Why the Little Things Matter

Not too long ago, a major power outage affected millions of people in Arizona, California and Mexico.  Two nuclear reactors were temporarily shut down.  Traffic backed up for miles all over the area.  Cars collided as frustrated drivers navigated without traffic signals.  Airports were shut down, stranding passengers.  Happening on an incredibly hot, triple-digit-temperature September day, the power outage knocked out much needed air conditioning.  It left people stuck in elevators.  Even the outdoors was affected.  San Diego beaches were closed when almost two million gallons of raw sewage spilled, a result of the water pumps failure at the regional station.  The failure continued to wreak havoc days after it was resolved.

Why did all of this happen?