Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr is comfortable in his own skin.
As a player, he fit perfectly into his defined role, never trying to do more than he was capable of, always placing the success of the team first. When he entered coaching, he immediately demonstrated natural leadership prowess as well, never aiming to become anything other than his authentic self.
On Thursday night, the Warriors captured their fourth title in the last eight years, and Kerr claimed his ninth championship overall (five as a player, four as a coach).
Kerr has four core principles in his leadership style.
1. Joy ― "It's meant to be fun." Kerr adopted this approach to coaching from watching Pete Carroll of USC and the Seattle Seahawks. Find the joy in the work.
2. Mindfulness ― "Stay in the moment. Focus on the process. Be grateful for the opportunity."
3. Compassion ― "Show how much you care." Having been a player, Kerr understood the value of listening intently to his players' point of views.
4. Competition ― "We compete. We keep score. We make sure there are winners and losers." Another Carroll approach, make sure everything is a competition.
During his time with Golden State, Kerr has dealt with highs and lows, from his own medical issues to those of his own team. But with each, he has taken the same approach.
"I think it’s really important to maintain your values and your moral code, whatever it is that guides you,” Kerr once told Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford University's School of Medicine. “It’s especially important in times of crisis.”
Kerr's core values work because they are authentic and his own. Though he certainly borrows from other coaches, he indoctrinates their philosophies into his own personal leadership style. He never tries to be Phil Jackson or Pete Carroll. He's simply being the best version of himself, which allows him to further establish credibility.
"When you’re trying to inspire a group of people, it’s easy to have values or write slogans on the wall, but if those things don’t come to life, then they don’t mean anything,” Kerr said.
“You have to hire people who embody those values too. There’s never been a player in the NBA or any professional sport who embodies joy more than Steph Curry. So, if joy is one of my values, and I’ve got Steph Curry on my team, it’s pretty easy to make the team feel that joy every single day.”
It is often said that those who think they lead, in reality, follow, which describes Kerr perfectly. Kerr always allows his players to have a voice and to help develop the team's culture, as long as they are wrapped around these four core components.
He stands behind his beliefs, then allows the players, assistant coaches and support staff to blend in. He demonstrates quiet leadership and inspires through his thoughts and actions, never having to remind anyone of his authority or job title, simply his core principles.
The best leaders never need to raise their voices. They instead elevate their actions.
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