A Lesson in Leadership Fulcrum Partners

A Lesson in Leadership

March 6, 2019

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Sharing this timely leadership story from Fulcrum Partners Managing Director, Monte Harrick.

It’s March…let the Madness Begin!

Well, it’s March…and that only means one thing in my household…it’s March Madness. One of the most iconic moments in NCAA Basketball Tournament history was in 1995 when Tyus Edney of UCLA sprinted full court thru the Missouri defense in 4.8 seconds to win the game and help UCLA advance to its 11th National Championship.

There are some leadership lessons to be learned in those few seconds that hinged on the greatness of victory or the tragedy of an early exit from the tournament and perhaps the future of their coach, Jim Harrick. You see, a year earlier, UCLA was upset in the first round by Tulsa and Harrick, in his sixth season as coach, took a beating in the press and media in Los Angeles about his ability to lead the program to a championship. Two years earlier, UCLA was playing number one seed Michigan and the “Fab Five” in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UCLA had played great. They tied the game with 5 seconds left and when Michigan inbounded the ball, Edney stole it. He drove to the basket and had about an eight-foot shot, but he was an unselfish player and he decided to pass the ball to the star of the team, Ed O’Bannon, but it was stolen. The game went into overtime and UCLA could not pull off the upset.

Fast forward two years later. UCLA is now the number one seed in the tournament playing in a second-round game in Boise, Idaho. Their opponent, Missouri, has them on the ropes. With five seconds to play in the game, Missouri makes a lay-up to put them up by one. UCLA did not expect to be in this position. This game should have been much easier. Missouri should not have been there either. They played Indiana in the first round and were not favored to win but pulled out a hard-fought victory over Bobby Knight’s team. To be down one point with 4.8 seconds left and have to go the length of the floor is a terrible position to be in, especially being a number one seed expecting to advance. There was tremendous pressure on Harrick to lead this team far into the tournament. In fact, due to UCLA losing in the first round the year before, if UCLA loses this game, Harrick is probably fired.

Now back to the leadership lesson. When Missouri scores to go up one, the UCLA players call timeout. They are stunned. As confident as they were as players during the season, they are now on the brink of blowing the tournament. They don’t know what else to do but look at their Coach. He calls them over. Harrick knew what he was going to do before the players even made it to the huddle. Good leaders learn from experience. It’s formed from learning from mistakes and being in positions where management allows you to learn on the job, to have the freedom to take calculated risks. Leadership is also about knowing your personnel and putting those people in positions where they can succeed and where they can best utilize their talents to the benefit of the team.

As the players walked to the huddle, the memories of Michigan and overtime two years earlier are fresh on Harrick’s mind. He instructs the team that Tyus is going to get the ball and take it the length of the court to the rim. If he gets too much pressure in the lane, he can kick it out to a teammate for a shot, but he told Tyus that he should take the shot. The huddle breaks but Harrick pulls Tyus aside. Good leaders communicate clearly with their team members. They make sure there is clarity in their message. Harrick gets close to Tyus and says, “Tyus, do you know what I want you to do?” Tyus replies, “Yea, I do.” Again, clarity, “Tyus, tell me what I want you to do.” “You want me to shoot it.” Harrick then points at Tyus’ chest, “Absolutely! I WANT YOU TO SHOOT THE BALL!”

Enjoy the video everyone. It still gives me chills!

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